Realistically, it’s unlikely that the Government will use the spending review to cancel HS2. But there’s a theory going round – suggested by Richard Hebditch of the Campaign for Better Transport – about where the money will be coming from.
In their briefing paper they say “a deal has been struck so these costs will be paid from the sale of the High Speed 1 line (between London and the Channel Tunnel) and won’t fall on the transport budget.”
The thing is, this is a bit of creative accounting. If HS1 is sold (strictly speaking it’s a leasehold), then the money will belong to the government. It’s up to them what they do with it – they could use it to support the social housing budget. Or to pay for free TV licenses for the over 75s, or maintain the Ark Royal for a bit longer.
So if they tell you, “it’s OK, they’ve got the money to build HS2”, it’s because they have chosen to use the money there. They could have spent it on all sorts of other projects.