Daniel Pryor reports on the Public Accounts Committee’s recent attack on the High Speed Two rail project.
First, it was £30 billion. Then, it was £42.6 billion. Recently, Treasury officials touted even higher estimates of HS2’s total cost: this time citing the figure of £73 billion. Whilst I’m sceptical of the IEA’s £80 billion prediction (the inclusion of some HS2 ‘add-ons’ in their calculations is questionable at best), it is reasonable to assume that evermore colossal cost estimates for the HS2 will grace the headlines in the coming months.
Plans for the high-speed railway – 351 miles of new track linking London to Birmingham and Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds – have met further criticism from the Public Accounts Committee. Chaired by Labour MP Margaret Hodge, a PAC report published yesterday highlighted serious shortcomings in the case for HS2’s economic benefits, as well as issues concerning route design, the use of ‘out-of-date data’, an overly ambitious timetable and a lack of commercial expertise needed to ‘protect taxpayers’ interests’.
The PAC’s criticisms were unsurprisingly met with support from the Stop HS2 campaign, with Chair Penny Gaines stating:
“The Public Accounts Committee report has not a single good thing to say about HS2. They point out the Department for Transport’s case is based on ten year data. Just like Stop HS2 has been saying for the last three years, the Dft’s case ignores modern travel habits, where business travellers work on trains. In addition, the PAC report points out that costs have spiralled and benefits fallen. The Dft has consistently ignored the costs to existing businesses of the disruption caused by building HS2 and the government has dismissed the concerns of ordinary people who will be directly affected. We are told the Prime Minister has personally ordered a fight back on HS2. We hope he actually takes note of what this report says and cancels HS2.”
Arguing against the report’s findings, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin stated that without HS2, major rail routes would be “overwhelmed” as passenger numbers increase. However, The Backbencher remains firmly opposed to HS2, on the grounds that it is little more than an extravagant ‘white elephant’ project that will do nothing to improve the lives of ordinary people: instead wreaking untold damage to taxpayers’ purses, as well as harming the environment.
…it is little more than an extravagant ‘white elephant’ project that will do nothing to improve the lives of ordinary people…