Send your news, photos and videos by texting bucksfreepress to 80360 or email
Report claims HS2 costs could double to £80billion
A DAMNING report from a leading think tank says the decision to proceed with HS2 was politically motivated, as it was estimated the cost of the project could balloon to £80billion.
A report from the Institute for Economic Affairs released today said government ministers had appeared to have "disregarded the economic evidence", as their own figures "suggest that HS2 represents poor value for money compared with alternative investments in transport infrastructure".
Author Dr Richard Wellings said the costs for the project could rise to £80 billion - almost double the £42.6 billion it has currently been allocated by the government.
In his report, entitled 'The High Speed Gravy Train', Dr Wellings said: "High speed rail was not officially adopted until the September 2008 Conservative Party Conference...it appears to have been based more on crude electoral calculation than political philosophy.
"The leadership’s support for high speed rail appears to have been closely related to its decision to stop the expansion of Heathrow Airport...in reality, though, such a scheme was not a practical solution to the capacity crisis at Heathrow.
"It did however allow the Conservative leadership to claim that, by providing an alternative for travellers, it could stop Heathrow expanding without inflicting significant damage on the economy - ignoring the fact that, unlike a third runway at Heathrow, the high-speed link would be a major burden on taxpayers."
He added: "Ministers appear to have disregarded the economic evidence and have chosen to proceed with the project for political reasons.
"A group of powerful special interests appears to have had a disproportionate influence on the government’s decision to build HS2."
Campaigners in the Chiltern district say more of the line needs to be built through tunnels to protect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and several Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
But Dr Wellings, who said the final cost of tunnelling is unclear, warned: "Tunnelling is generally significantly more expensive than running infrastructure along the surface and also introduces considerable construction risks."
He added the previous high speed rail project in Kent had failed to meet many of its objectives.
He said: "While the high-speed-rail lobby promotes the scheme as a success story, it was in fact a financial failure, marked by cost increases, repeated bailouts, disappointing passenger numbers and failed objectives."
The report is another setback to the scheme, whose business case has previously been criticised by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee, an influential group of MPs.
Joe Rukin, the campaign manager of the Stop HS2 group, said: "The IEA’s study as the most hard-hitting attack on the project by an independent group so far. The crescendo of opposition to this project is just getting louder and louder and the government is still not listening.
"The Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and now the Institute of Economic Affairs have all raised concerns, and they are part of a long list of economist, rail experts and environmentalists who all say the case for HS2 simply does not exist. These aren’t bodies with an axe to grind - they’re serious people acting in what they see as the best interests of the country."
In a statement the Department for Transport said: "HS2 is absolutely vital for this country, providing a huge economic boost which will generate a return on investment that will continue paying back for generations to come.
"Without it, the key rail routes connecting London, the Midlands and the North will be overwhelmed.
"HS2 will provide the capacity needed in a way that will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds worth of economic benefits.
"The government is committed to managing the cost within the budget we have set for the project and to securing maximum value for money for the taxpayer, while also ensuring that preparations are properly made for the most significant infrastructure investment the UK has seen in modern times."
Comments are closed on this article.