TaxPayers' Alliance response to high speed rail announcement

January 10, 2012 11:53 AM

The Government today gave the the go-ahead for the £32 billion HS2 high speed London to Birmingham rail project.

We have been one of the most active critics of the proposals, following detailed research into the plans. 

Key findings are:

  • HS2 will be enormously expensive, costing well over £1,000 per family, but only a fortunate minority will benefit

  • This is a railway for the rich but paid for by everyone. HS2 assumes average passenger income of £70,000 and relies on a 27 per cent over inflation rise in fares (source: High speed rail)

  • Under those plans, cities like Coventry and Stoke on Trent will see a worse service and there will be a number of other capacity problems (source: HS2 capacity analysis)

  • Ministers have pledged to address some of those problems, but their pledges and other schemes needed to make HS2 work as advertised could see the cost to taxpayers rise from £17.1 billion to £45.5 billion (source: The hidden costs of HS2) We have challenged the Government to set out the true cost of the scheme or be more honest about some of the consequences of HS2

  • The public are not in favour of HS2.  A YouGov poll on spending cuts that we commissioned found 48 per cent of respondents supported cancelling the project with only 34 per cent opposed to such a move (source: Spending poll 2011)

  • Business leaders are also sceptical. We organised an open letter from business leaders and economic commentators including Simon Wolfson and Nigel Lawson attacking the scheme as a “vanity project” and a “white elephant” (source: Letter)

  • 38 per cent of members of the Institute of Directors believe that the public spending required to build the new line would represent poor value for money, compared with only 30 per cent who think it would represent good value (Source: IoD member survey)

  • Other campaign groups including the Countryside Alliance, the RAC Foundation and the Green Party are also sceptical. We organised a briefing where they made the case against the new line (watch: Briefing video)


To reflect all of these concerns, we have released a series of videos asking: “Why is the Government taxing the poor to pay for a rich man’s train?"

[iframe http://www.youtube.com/embed/16a9Cn-5ulY?rel=0&hd=1 500 314]

Responding to today's announcement Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"It is extremely disappointing that the Government is pressing ahead with plans for a new high speed rail line that will cost taxpayers a fortune. The economic case for the new line just isn’t credible and ministers still aren’t being honest about the hidden costs, or the consequences for towns getting a worse service and passengers paying higher fares under their current plans. There has never been a proper consideration of strategic alternatives that could deliver greater capacity more quickly and without the enormous bill. This white elephant will mean a faster journey for a fortunate few but at an enormous cost to the rest of us; it should be abandoned before too much money has been wasted."


Useful links to our previous work on HS2

High Speed Rail
Will HS2 create jobs?
HS2 capacity analysis
The hidden costs of HS2
TPA/YouGov spending poll 2011

Our videos questioning the case for HS2

Why are the Government taxing the poor to pay for a rich man's train?
Why are the Government taxing ordinary motorists to pay for a rich man's train?
Why are the Government cutting services for ordinary commuters to make way for a rich man's train?

Finally, click here to see our submission to the Transport Select Committee.The Government today gave the the go-ahead for the £32 billion HS2 high speed London to Birmingham rail project.

We have been one of the most active critics of the proposals, following detailed research into the plans. 

Key findings are:

  • HS2 will be enormously expensive, costing well over £1,000 per family, but only a fortunate minority will benefit

  • This is a railway for the rich but paid for by everyone. HS2 assumes average passenger income of £70,000 and relies on a 27 per cent over inflation rise in fares (source: High speed rail)

  • Under those plans, cities like Coventry and Stoke on Trent will see a worse service and there will be a number of other capacity problems (source: HS2 capacity analysis)

  • Ministers have pledged to address some of those problems, but their pledges and other schemes needed to make HS2 work as advertised could see the cost to taxpayers rise from £17.1 billion to £45.5 billion (source: The hidden costs of HS2) We have challenged the Government to set out the true cost of the scheme or be more honest about some of the consequences of HS2

  • The public are not in favour of HS2.  A YouGov poll on spending cuts that we commissioned found 48 per cent of respondents supported cancelling the project with only 34 per cent opposed to such a move (source: Spending poll 2011)

  • Business leaders are also sceptical. We organised an open letter from business leaders and economic commentators including Simon Wolfson and Nigel Lawson attacking the scheme as a “vanity project” and a “white elephant” (source: Letter)

  • 38 per cent of members of the Institute of Directors believe that the public spending required to build the new line would represent poor value for money, compared with only 30 per cent who think it would represent good value (Source: IoD member survey)

  • Other campaign groups including the Countryside Alliance, the RAC Foundation and the Green Party are also sceptical. We organised a briefing where they made the case against the new line (watch: Briefing video)


To reflect all of these concerns, we have released a series of videos asking: “Why is the Government taxing the poor to pay for a rich man’s train?"

[iframe http://www.youtube.com/embed/16a9Cn-5ulY?rel=0&hd=1 500 314]

Responding to today's announcement Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"It is extremely disappointing that the Government is pressing ahead with plans for a new high speed rail line that will cost taxpayers a fortune. The economic case for the new line just isn’t credible and ministers still aren’t being honest about the hidden costs, or the consequences for towns getting a worse service and passengers paying higher fares under their current plans. There has never been a proper consideration of strategic alternatives that could deliver greater capacity more quickly and without the enormous bill. This white elephant will mean a faster journey for a fortunate few but at an enormous cost to the rest of us; it should be abandoned before too much money has been wasted."


Useful links to our previous work on HS2

High Speed Rail
Will HS2 create jobs?
HS2 capacity analysis
The hidden costs of HS2
TPA/YouGov spending poll 2011

Our videos questioning the case for HS2

Why are the Government taxing the poor to pay for a rich man's train?
Why are the Government taxing ordinary motorists to pay for a rich man's train?
Why are the Government cutting services for ordinary commuters to make way for a rich man's train?

Finally, click here to see our submission to the Transport Select Committee.

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