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09.09.13

HS2 benefits ‘dwindling’ – PAC

The DfT has not yet presented a convincing strategic case for HS2, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has argued.

But transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We can’t not do anything.”

MPs recommended that the DfT should publish detailed evidence why spending £50bn on rail infrastructure is “the best option” and criticised decision-making based on “fragile numbers”, out-of-date data and assumptions that do not reflect real life.

The total cost for HS2 includes £14.4bn for contingencies. PAC suggested that this should be allocated to specific risks to justify the large amount. The expected timetable for the Bill was also labelled “ambitious” and “unrealistic”.

The DfT should also set out how and by when it will secure the right skills mix for HS2, particularly in regards to commercial skills and major projects expertise.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge MP said: “The Department for Transport has yet to present a convincing strategic case for High Speed 2.

“The pattern so far has been for costs to spiral – from more than £16bn to £21bn plus for phase one – and the estimated benefits to dwindle.

“The Department has been making huge spending decisions on the basis of fragile numbers, out-of-data data and assumptions which do not reflect real life, such as assuming business travellers do not work on trains using modern technology.

“The Department has ambitious and, in our view, unrealistic, plans for passing the Bill for High Speed 2. The timetable is much tighter than for either High Speed 1 or Crossrail, despite the fact High Speed 2 is a much larger programme.”

McLoughlin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The project will free up vital space on our railways for passengers and freight, generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and deliver better connections between our towns and cities.

“The truth is we can't not do anything. If we are going to be able to compete globally, we need to be able to attract businesses to our cities. To attract businesses to our cities, there need to be good connections and that is vitally important for the future of this country long term.”

Hilary Wharf, director of anti-HS2 group the HS2 Action Alliance, said: “We have no doubt that the Government will continue to plough ahead with HS2 despite PAC's devastating criticism – that there is no convincing strategic case and out-of-date information and wrong assumptions were used which do not reflect real life.

“How much longer do they think the taxpayer will listen to their protestations that this £50bn white elephant is vital to the future of the UK's economy?”

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

Comments

Jb   30/01/2014 at 15:47

I agree with Patrick McLoughlin that we can't do nothing. However, I feel the money would be far better spent replacing the gaps created in our railway system in the late 1960s and thus reinstate the network to what it used to be. This would include re-establishing the Midland route from Manchester to St Pancras and the Great Central route to Marylebone. These routes were closed and their traffic diverted to the WCML to exploit the then new electrification. I believe these routes could be re-established at a faction of the cost of HS2 and the money saved used to replace other missing links in the network like Skipton to Colne and others. The benefits would be felt sooner too. I believe our main line trains are fast enough already for a country of our size and capacity is a much more important issue.

Geordie   09/08/2015 at 11:06

There MIGHT be a case to build HS2 just as far as Birmingham, but the farther North you go, the figures stack up less and less.. especially when you consider the nonsense of spending billions on tunnelling for Manchester, as well as TWO stations there. Phase Two is just a vanity project for Manchester. However, let's not forget; what Manchester asks for Manchester gets, especially with Osborne in power.

Gb   18/11/2015 at 18:54

Is the only way to stop HS2 to change the Government?

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