The Financial Times is pointing out mounting concerns over HS2 ‘gravy’ train. They say
Staff are being hired at the rate of more than one a day; more than £7bn worth of contracts are out to tender, and the amount spent on HS2 so far is on track to reach £1bn within months. This includes the cost of paying the 900 employees as well as consultants, lawyers and for ground preparation.
All this at the same time as thousands of objectors line up to present their case to MPs, who are not due to give royal assent to the £50bn high-speed project — which promises to cut journey times between London and Birmingham by 20 minutes — until the end of 2016 at the earliest.
HS2’s CEO, Simon Kirby on a £750,000 a year salary, has commissioned a year long study to look at international high speed railway construction. The last time a major HS2 cost cutting review was put in place, David Higgins concluded that actually the HS2 budget was absolutely spot on and they should drop the link to HS1.
As the FT points out
Many high-speed railway lines, including HS1 between the Channel tunnel and London, have struggled to be profitable and rely on state subsidies for survival. On HS1, passenger numbers have disappointed because the higher ticket prices discouraged potential users — a trend likely to occur on HS2, where the route will largely be a replacement service for business travellers from Euston on the existing West Coast railway line, whose first-class carriages are often nearly empty….
Martin Blaiklock, a consultant on infrastructure and energy project finance, says extra capacity could be built more cheaply by adding to existing railways. “[HS2] is very high-risk,” he says. “It is a gravy train for consultants, involving banks, lawyers and government officials.”