HS2 - do we need a rethink?

Yesterday’s release of the ‘Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s (IPA) annual report on major projects 2015 to 2016’ provided a startling insight into the inefficiency of government spending on infrastructure projects. The report, which shows how government-funded infrastructure projects are progressing, revealed that for only 7% of infrastructure projects ‘successful delivery appears highly likely’.

This is extremely concerning, considering that the total cost of the other 93% of the mentioned projects amounts to £317.4 billion of taxpayers’ money. This vast sum is being spent on projects for which successful delivery (which the report does not define) does not appear to be highly likely!

While there are quite a few problematic projects on which the government is spending vast sums of public money, a particular cause for concern is High-Speed 2 (HS2).

When (or perhaps, if?) HS2 is constructed, at a cost of £55.7 billion according to government figures, it will create high-speed rail links between London and northern areas such as Leeds and Manchester. This is part of the Chancellor’s plan to bridge the North-South divide and create an economically prosperous ‘northern powerhouse’.

However, is this really what the North needs? By making it easier for northerners to commute to London, the project could make the North more economically dependent on London. This could potentially cause economic harm to the North if its best workers decide to work in London to take advantage of the relatively high wages it offers. 

What the North possibly needs is not better connections to London and the South East, but better connections between its own cities. Indeed, according to a report published by a House of Lords committee, ‘there is a strong case’ for prioritising investment in northern east-west transport links over investment in south-north links. Arguably, whatever is left of that £55.7 billion could be put to much better use. 

As well as the above, poor planning has caused HS2 to become socially harmful. It surfaced on Thursday that hundreds of people living in a housing development, which was established one year after the HS2 project began, will most probably have their homes bulldozed to make way for the rerouted line. This is causing immeasurable inconvenience for many families, and is happening only because the government decided, more than five years after planning for HS2 started, to change the proposed route.

We don’t need this inefficient investment in infrastructure to spread prosperity nationwide. We need a complete rethink, and the scrapping of this exceedingly expensive white elephant.


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