The Transport Select Committee report on “Transport and the Economy” was published today.
The TSC report concludes
“The Government must ensure that where it approves transport schemes designed to
stimulate economic growth and rebalance the economy, they are supported by
convincing economic development strategies. For major schemes that the
Government is promoting itself, such as High Speed 2, it must work with local and
regional bodies to develop effective economic development strategies that integrate
with its transport proposals. (Paragraph 31)”
The Eddington report concluded that a high speed train network was unlikely to be a priority. Eddington warned that “the momentum can make such projects difficult – and unpopular – to stop, even when the benefit:cost equation does not stack up, or the environmental and landscape impacts are unacceptable.”
Although the focus of the TSC enquiry was not HS2, it inevitably came up during the oral sessions, and we were asked to give evidence. As we have already posted, the response from witnesses was mixed.
In particular, Prof Henry Overman told the enquiry that “One of the problems is that people tend to take their pet project and basically try to justify support for it, on the basis that it will be transformational, and many of these claims for projects that will be transformational do not materialise once we go ahead and invest large amounts of money.”
On the specific topic of high speed rail Theresa Villiers, told the TSC that “… high-speed rail I believe will provide a major boost to our efforts to address the longstanding prosperity gap between north and south.”
But the TSC report says “the HS2 business case does not include an assessment of the project’s regeneration impacts and so it is difficult to assess to what extent HS2 is likely deliver regeneration or rebalancing.”
We also welcome the news that the Transport Select Committee, following representations from Daniel Byles MP, Andrea Leadsom MP, Geoffrey Robinson MP and Tony Baldry MP will be holding an enquiry into HS2.