Business leaders and economic commentators attack HS2 proposal

March 10, 2011 8:14 AM

Business leaders and economic commentators have today attacked the Government's plans for a new high speed rail line, which will come at a huge cost to ordinary families and is facing serious criticism over its business case.  Conservative competitiveness guru Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive at Next, and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson are among high profile signatories of a letter to the Daily Telegraph opposing the HS2 high speed rail proposals.

Organised by the TPA, the letter highlights the huge cost of the project.  The Government has argued that the line will promote growth, but the 21 signatories believe this expensive project is not what the economy needs.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Sir,

We are extremely concerned at the Government's plans to spend over £30 billion on a new high speed rail line.  In our view it would be wrong to spend that much money, even leaving aside the notorious record of overruns on these sorts of projects, on a train set that only a minority of fortunate passengers will use.  Particularly when higher taxes are putting pressure on ordinary families and businesses, and ongoing pressure on the public finances is making it necessary to curb spending in areas like education and scientific research.

There is already a fast and frequent service to Birmingham and Manchester, existing trains running at up to 125mph already mean that there are few flights on that route.  There are better options to increase capacity more affordably and reduce overcrowding more quickly than HS2, which will take decades to complete. Stretched commuter trains and congested roads are a bigger issue than the journey time to London.

An extremely expensive white elephant isn't what the economy needs. If the Government want to encourage growth, there are better ways to get Britain growing and make us more competitive than getting each family to pay over £1,000 for a vanity project that we cannot afford.

Yours,

Patrick Barbour, former Chairman of Microgen plc.; former Chairman Barbour Index plc.
Toby Baxendale, Founder, Direct Seafoods
Antony Craven Walker, Chairman, Serica Energy
Mark Davies, Chairman, FF&P Asset Management
Robin Faccenda, Chairman, Faccenda Group
Terence Faulkner, Chairman, Leathams
John Hoerner, Retail consultant
Angus Keate, CEO, Lycetts
Chris Kelly, Chairman, Keltruck
Damon de Laszlo, Chairman, Harwin plc.; Chairman, Economic Research Council
Nigel Lawson, Chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation; former Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ruth Lea, Economic Adviser, Arbuthnot Banking Group
Philip Leech, CEO, Terrace Hill Property plc.
Mark Littlewood, Director-General, Institute of Economic Affairs
Sir David Naish
Rohan Masson-Taylor, Chairman, Cadogan Tate Group
Matthew Sinclair, Director, TaxPayers' Alliance
Richard Smith, Managing Director, HR Smith Group
Nigel Vinson, former Director, Barclays Bank; former Director, British Airports Authority; Co-Founder of the Centre for Policy Studies
Mike Williams, Group Chief Executive, Dawsongroup plc.
Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive, Next

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