Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

Government accused of ignoring criticism as MPs outline HS2 deficiencies

Photo: Matt Buck via Flickr

The expected economic benefits of HS2 are decreasing as the costs relating to the proposed high speed rail line continue to spiral, according to a group of MPs.

In a new report, the public accounts committee says the Department of Transport is “yet to present a convincing strategic case” for the multi-billion pound project.

It has not yet demonstrated that this is the best way to spend £50 billion on rail investment in these constrained times, and that the improved connectivity will promote growth in the regions rather than sucking even more activity into London”, said Margaret Hodge MP, the committee’s chair.

The pattern so far has been for costs to spiral – from more than £16 billion to £21 billion plus for phase one – and the estimated benefits to dwindle.

The Department [of Transport] has been making huge spending decisions on the basis of fragile numbers, out-of-data data and assumptions which do not reflect real life, such as assuming business travellers do not work on trains using modern technology.”

The committee’s report follows similar cautionary noises from influential business body the Institute of Directors (IoD) and former chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling.

The IoD described HS2 as a “grand folly” while Darling said it has “highly contentious” economic benefits.

The report by the cross-party group of MPs, along with criticism from the IoD and others, has reinforced hostility towards HS2, which has already garnered a vocal group of opponents.

Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, said, “The problem is that the government just do not want to listen. Now that every argument they have put up for building HS2 has been destroyed, they are ready to invent some new ones.”

Ignoring all the well thought out criticisms of HS2, and serious warnings that taxpayers’ money will be wasted and costs will go up, government is now set to try and rescue this drowning man by inventing loads of economic benefits which are magically going to come from nowhere, just because it is faster on the train to get to London from a handful of cities.

It doesn’t matter that any regeneration will need investment on top of the £50 billion price tag, or that all the international evidence shows HS2 won’t create jobs, but move them around the country, especially to London.”

He added, “Nothing seems to matter to them besides trying to convince people that HS2 is ‘essential’, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary and the savage cuts to public spending everywhere else.

Further reading:

HS2 money ‘better spent elsewhere’, says leading business group

Alistair Darling on HS2: ‘there are better ways to spend £50bn’

HS2 could cost double government estimates, warns free market thinkthank

HS2: an ‘engine for growth’ or a ‘fast train for fat cats’?

‘Still unclear’ if HS2 will be economically beneficial

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