Yesterday the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts published the latest report on the preparations for the High Speed 2 rail project. It demonstrates that Parliament and the public are still in the dark about crucial details – not least when the railway will open and how much it is expected to cost and precisely where it will go.
The report has confirmed the findings of our previous research, which showed that the benefits of the project are overestimated, the scheme is projected to be massively over its original budget and is unlikely to be completed on schedule. It is therefore an inefficient investment in infrastructure and a huge waste of taxpayer’s money.
HS2 is part of the government’s effort to increase rail capacity between the North and South of England and to deliver greater economic growth in the North of England. However turning Birmingham and Manchester into outposts of London could make the Midlands and the North more economically dependent on London. This could potentially cause economic harm if its best workers decide to work in London to take advantage of the relatively high wages it offers.
Furthermore, the initial business case assumed average passenger income of around £70,000. If this materialises, then the project is quite openly a high speed rail line for well-off passengers paid for by less well-off taxpayers.
The TPA once again calls on the wasteful HS2 project to be scrapped. The government should instead invest in other infrastructure projects across the UK with much better benefit/cost ratios. A stronger focus on technological developments, such as autonomous vehicles, will also help to reduce transport costs and boost growth and productivity in other regions of the UK outside London.