Outgoing chairman of the controversial HS2 rail link Douglas Oakervee has said that the country’s entire transport system needs to be rebuilt and that Britain has to choose how to distribute its budget.
Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers on Tuesday, Oakervee said that the current situation is similar to that experienced by the UK in the 1950s, when many new motorways had to be built.
“We have once again reached a similar point in the cycle of transport planning with a choice to be made. Either we build another similar-sized network of roads or we invest in HS2”, he said.
“The stark truth is that our railway network has been allowed to decay for more than 60 years, I would argue that we are already late in acting. In 2010 we published demand forecasts for HS2. Since then the actual growth we have experienced is already outstripping the predicted demand for HS2.”
He added, “It is clear that all the main transport arteries both road and rail are rapidly becoming congested and are already constraining our ability to grow the economy to allow us to maintain our position in world trade and commerce.”
The HS2 project has been met with strong opposition, especially after it was revealed that the overall cost could actually be much higher than the initial £30 billion predicted. Former chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling said that the money would be better spent in other ways, while Labour said it was ready to drop the project if it turns out to be too expensive.
However, the government is determined to go ahead with it, as stated by David Cameron at the Conservative party conference earlier this month. The prime minister said he believed it would be vital for the economy.
A recent study by the Independent Transport Commission revealed that if planned properly, the HS2 would bring many benefits to the UK and cost only 10% more than a traditional rail line.