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The Treasury is having doubts about whether the Stonehenge tunnel scheme is value for money. But in truth the calculations are meaningless anyway for no-one can convert cultural gain (or loss) into measurable money terms. Hence, when the National Audit Office says the project will deliver “£1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent” and The Treasury doubts it,  both are dealing in fuzzy information, not to say complete codswallop. As the National Audit Office has said, (rather more politely than that) the figures were arrived at

“because Highways England included a monetary value for “cultural heritage” in the costings. Highways England worked out this value by asking the public how much it would pay to have the road removed from the site. [!!!] While Highways England used approved methodologies to do this, calculating benefits in this way is inherently uncertain.”

“Inherently uncertain”! How very British! What they mean is “it’s nonsense, but it’s all Highways England could think of to fill the void in the calculation and get the result they wanted”. It’s like a bike designed by Hiram B. Nickerson, no trick not used to ensure it looks low-impact!

Hiram B. Nickerson’s Aerial Bicycle, 1896

Yet that’s not all: Highways England claim to have arrived at a cultural benefit figure but where’s their estimate of cultural loss? It’s not there. No-one knows how much archaeology will be lost until it’s lost so they’ve simply not mentioned it, along with the loss of the free view of the stones. Honesty England they ain’t!

By the way, in case Highways England et al tell you that asking the public how much they’d be willing to pay to remove the road is a valid technique in cost-benefit analysis let them use that method to calculate the cultural value of The Pyramids, Hamlet or a sunset.

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