Roundup: This week’s news on HS2

Since Patrick McLouglin upped the cost of HS2 by £10 billion to £42 billion (over £50 billion if you want trains), politicians and others have realised this is an unaffordable white elephant of a project which should be scrapped.

Financial Times: Amber lights slow down Britain’s HS2 rail project

Just a few weeks ago, supporters of Britain’s High Speed 2 rail project seemed to have little to fear….

Yet, in recent days, that Westminster consensus has started to splinter. First, the government revealed the projected cost had jumped from £34.5bn to £42.6bn. With rolling stock expected to cost a further £7.5bn, the total price tag now looks set to exceed £50bn. Then, officials said this week they were revising their cost-benefit analysis in a way that was likely to reduce the scheme’s projected economic value.

YouGov Poll: HS2 public support falls

HS2 appears increasingly unpopular with Labour and Conservative voters as overall support for the project heads into negative territory

The Telegraph: Lord Mandelson warns HS2 could be ‘expensive mistake’ –

Writing in the Financial Times, Lord Mandelson said Labour’s backing for HS2 was partly based on hopes of the country emerging from the financial crisis and the impending elections rather than the financial burden or the impact on areas around the new …

The Guardian: Peter Mandelson’s HS2 epiphany has tipped the balance – The Guardian

HS2 was a Labour project that had everything going for it. In time of austerity, go for growth with mighty infrastructure. Employ people and borrow now when money is cheap to invest in the future. Surely Keynes himself would have called for this … […]

Evening Standard: Ed Balls raises fresh doubts over £42bn cost of HS2

Ed Balls is thought to be cooling on High Speed rail after he proposed abolishing the company set up to deliver the £42 billion project.

The Shadow Chancellor recently suggested scrapping HS2 Ltd and said Labour would rethink how it sets priorities for major rail infrastructure investment.

BBC: HS2 building timetable ‘complete madness’

The timetable for completing the HS2 railway is “complete madness”, the head of a Commons committee has warned.

Labour’s Margaret Hodge said Parliament would not pass plans by 2015 as there were too many grievances and this would delay completion of the first stage from London to Birmingham beyond 2026.

Liberal Conspiracy: Why Labour should turn against HS2

At their summer reception yesterday, IPPR’s Nick Pearce joked to me that I finally agreed with Peter Mandelson over something.

It’s true. I’m glad that Mandelson has finally converted to an argument I’ve been making for a while: that High-Speed Rail 2 is a bad idea….

It has now become an entirely political calculation. And this is where I think Labour is badly missing a trick.

The Guardian: Labour thought private capital would pay for HS2. As if

Private capital’s appetite for risk evaporates when the bill starts at a few tens of billions and rises with every revision: Peter Mandelson has revealed that Labour assumed that the HS2 high-speed railway project would attract private capital.

Lord Mandelson didn’t quite say the last Labour government constructed its economic case for HS2 on the back of a fag packet to chase votes, but you caught his drift. The estimates were “almost entirely speculative” but “the vision was exciting” and “we were focusing on the coming electoral battle”, he wrote in the FT this week.

Liberal Conspiracy: The growing opposition to HS2 cannot be ignored any longer by Christian Wolmar

At last, opposition to the HS2 rail project is extending beyond the Chilterns and is starting a debate that should have been had three years ago.

There has always been something deeply worrying about the fact that all three main political parties are in support of the plan to build a high speed railway line linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds when the case is so weak and the cost so high. The parties have been outdoing each other in attempts to show that their support is unyielding in the face of growing evidence that the whole project is unsustainable.

The Independent: Why build HS2 and waste billions that could be used elsewhere?

I have the feeling this is a sop. Even carried out, it won’t solve underlying weakness.

The high-speed rail link will not actually take people to where they want to go

The Scotsman: Comment: Sleeper can take HS2 strain for less

ALL this talk about HS2 is diverting attention from badly-needed investment in a somewhat overlooked and undervalued means of long-distance travel: the Caledonian Sleeper.

Its biggest advantage is that it makes the most of a short visit to London, allowing for an evening’s work or dinner at either end and arrival in London and Scotland in time for breakfast, and without the need for costly cross-city connections…

It was announced in the past week that three firms are competing to run the sleeper service for 15 years from April 2015: the incumbent FirstGroup, 
Arriva and Serco. Arriva is owned by DB, the German state railway company which operates the largest network of sleeper services in western Europe. Serco runs sleeper trains aimed at tourists in Australia.

Political Cleanup: Secret State 12: DfT alleged to have opposed release of official figures because they would ‘confuse the public’

… We heard from Alison Munro, HS2’s chief executive, that the real argument about the need for HS2 has shifted from speed to capacity.

Andrew Gilligan and many others have challenged the need for extra capacity, some offering alternative strategies;

…“In court, counsel for the Department for Transport, Tim Mould QC, defended the failure to release the capacity figures during the consultation period, saying they would have ‘added nothing to the debate’ and ‘confused the public’.“

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