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18.06.13

Government ‘backing the wrong horse’ with HS2

Demand for HS2 has likely been “overestimated” by oversimplified Government modelling, a think tank has argued in a new report.

The New Economics Foundation (Nef) has criticised the value for money of the £33bn project and labelled the evidence that HS2 would promote economic growth or tackle the north-south divide as “limited”.

The report suggested alternative uses for the money, with £10bn for upgrades to rail infrastructure in the North and the Midlands; £10bn to overhaul the East and West Coast main lines; £6bn upgrade to mass transport in major cities outside London; £4.5bn for superfast fibre-optic broadband; and £2bn to boost cities’ provision for cycling and walking.

David Theiss, Nef researcher, said: “HS2 is the largest transport investment in the UK's history. At the moment it amounts to a £33bn gamble. Our research shows the Government is backing the wrong horse.

“Instead of pouring billions of pounds into a single line that will take 20 years to complete we should be spreading our bets on a wider range of transport investments that offer better value for money.”

But transport minister Simon Burns said: “Demand for long-distance rail travel has doubled to 125 million journeys a year in the past 15 years and by the mid-2020s the West Coast Main Line will be completely full.

“HS2 will provide the capacity needed in a way that will support thousands of jobs and billions of pounds worth of economic benefits.

“It is not a case of HS2 and nothing else. During 2014-19 we are investing over £9bn on the current rail network, while latest figures show that over a one year period we spent upwards of £8.7bn on our roads.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Image c. HS2 Ltd

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