Fares, rail policy and DfT news

14.05.19

Scrap HS2 and use its £56bn budget to fund 28 alternative projects, urges TPA

Scrapping the £56bn HS2 project could pave the way for 28 separate local infrastructure schemes to be funded instead with the case “getting stronger by the day” a new report from the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has claimed.

The report states that with the latest evidence suggesting the total cost of HS2 could almost double, abandoning HS2 would free up at least £50bn to improve transport links up and down the country – although critics have called the report “misleading and fantastical.”

There are 28 named local and regional transport infrastructure projects that could be funded by this money, including an £18bn modernisation of the rail network across the Pennines and electrifying the rest of the Midland Main Line for £5bn.

The total cost of the 28 schemes, which came from a UK-wide plea by the TPA for submissions, is £45.1bn, £11bn less than the current budget for HS2 – although nearly a quarter of the schemes would go towards roads or cycleway improvements.

HS2 has been under heavy pressure from politicians and protesters, and is at risk of exceeding its budget in some part due to land acquisition costs spiralling five times higher than first projected.

There has been talk that the high-speed rail project could be forced to run with fewer or slower trains, and its former chairman Sir Terry Morgan has admitted that “nobody knows” what the final cost of HS2 will be.

The TPA’s report said that thanks to “spiralling costs, environmental damage, consistent mismanagement or overwhelming unpopularity of the project, the tide is turning against HS2.”

Other schemes included the £5bn extension of Crossrail to Stansted Airport and Cambridge, a £1bn supertram network for Leeds, the Chiltern Main Line, and the £500m works on the Sussex section of the Brighton Main Line and the Exeter to Plymouth rail line.

TPA chief executive John O’Connell said: “We have long argued that HS2 is a waste of taxpayers’ money and this report makes that fact even clearer.

“Instead of spending £56bn on a vanity project, the government should heed this report. Given the number of excellent alternatives, it’s now time to scrap this white elephant.”

The High-Speed Rail Industry group however slammed the alternative HS2 plans, saying it was “the finest work of fantasy and fiction since JRR Tolkien last put down his pen.”

“Whilst the other infrastructure projects noted in the TPA report may indeed have merit, in most cases they are currently only at an early planning stage, so comparing costs is completely misleading.

“As cabinet minister Amber Rudd said last week, support for HS2 is a true test of whether people are serious about long-term investment in Britain.

“The project is already underway and employing thousands of people. We need to finish the job, and use HS2 to smash the north-south divide which has beset Britain for decades.”

The group pointed to the £21bn black hole in the TPA’s Northern Powerhouse Rail plan, and also demanded to know who had paid for this “misleading and fantastical report.”

What does the future look like for HS2? Get your answers from Mark Thurston, Chief Executive, HS2 Ltd & Lorna Pimlott Director of Sponsorship & Policy, Phase 2, HS2 Ltd at TransCityRail Midland on the 18th July, Click here to find out more. >>

Image credit - OwenPrice

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