A group of academics specialising in transport have today published a report on HS2. Like every other independent report which has preceded it, the report slates HS2 for a multitude of reasons, notably the cost and the unjustifiably high design speed, and goes on to call for an independent assessment of less damaging alternatives.
Besides stating that HS2 will cost over five times per mile than what a French TGV line would, assessed against its four objectives, the report claims it only fulfils one of them, but even that could be done better:
- HS2 does add to rail capacity, but there are much less costly and environmentally damaging ways of doing so;
- HS2 provides only limited improvements to connectivity, and will worsen London services for several cities, as well as many cross-country journeys;
- HS2’s wider economic benefits for the North are uncertain – investment in the North is a more certain way of providing them; and
- HS2 contributes nothing to the objective of reducing carbon emissions from transport.
Professor Tony May from Leeds University told BBC News:
“What’s needed is an independent, objective assessment of the alternatives. These would include a less damaging version of HS2, a better-connected new line from London and transport investment in the North rather than to the North.”
Professor James Croll of UCL, added:
“It is just vanity for the UK to have faster trains than the usual high-speed trains. The UK is far too small geographically to need an ultra-high speed network – by the time the trains get up to speed it will be almost time to slow them down again. The decision to design for 240mph has led to a succession of needlessly expensive knock-on effects in construction which will be saddling taxpayers with huge bills for a generation.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 responded:
“As this report makes clear, HS2 fails most of its own criteria and at £56 billion that’s a very high price tag for something that fails so badly.”
“HS2 has always been the solution looking for a problem. The Department for Transport say that the speed only adds 10% to the £56 billion budget, but it also means that there can be fewer options for connections to the conventional railway. What’s more this is one of the reasons that HS2 Ltd themselves say HS2 will still be causing increased carbon emissions beyond 2086. But the speed also means it can’t avoid sensitive wildlife sites.”
“With HS2 meaning worse train services for many cities in the north, and any economic benefits very uncertain, it is time to look again very very closely, but with HS2 Ltd having challenged the rights of over 400 people and organisations affected to petition the House of Lords, it seems they are desperate to rush it through without scrutiny.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin added:
“This report highlights what we have always known, that HS2 was simply decided upon without any thought of conducting an analysis on what the UK transport infrastructure needs, and that 250mph was just plucked out of the air for no reason whatsoever. All the problems with HS2 stem from this starting point, that a solution was generated without any attempt at understanding the problem, and the lobbying from vested interest advocates not only got it on the drawing board, but has also ensured that any well-founded criticism of this vanity project is dismissed out of hand.”
“With the Government at panic stations, calling in Sir Jeremy Heywood the review the project as these inherent problems come home to roost, it is time to heed the advice of experts and go back to the drawing board before any more money is wasted on a white elephant.”
Commenting on the report Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs said:
“HS2 is a fundamentally flawed vanity project that will be extortionately expensive and deliver very little benefit to taxpayers. Belatedly, it seems that policymakers and academics alike are finally coming to this realisation.
“The supposed justifications for going ahead with the project have been discredited one by one. Arguments about the benefits of faster journeys, capacity and regeneration of the north have all been debunked, and all this at the estimated cost of £80 billion. Ultimately, if the HS2 project offered value for money the private sector would pay for it, rather than piling costs onto hard-pressed taxpayers.
“Token cost-cutting will not suffice. The government should abandon the project altogether and look to prioritise removing regulations that are barriers to the development of commercially viable schemes that do not cost the taxpayer at all.”