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Economist hits out at High Speed 2 costs and lobbying by civil engineers

The cost of the controversial High Speed 2 rail scheme could spiral to £80bn, a senior economist has warned this week.

Richard Wellings, deputy director at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank, said further design changes and subsidised regeneration schemes could add £30bn.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs in June that the budget for the rapid rail link between London and the North had risen to £50bn including rolling stock.

But in a report for the IEA, Wellings said this was likely to increase further.

“Policymakers have strong incentives to ‘buy off’ opposition along the route at the expense of taxpayers, for example
by increasing the amount of tunnelling or diverting the line,” he said.

The report added: “Local authorities, transport bureaucracies and business groups are already lobbying central government to fund new infrastructure along the route… HS2 will trigger billions of pounds of additional expenditure on commercially loss-making, taxpayer-funded projects.”

Wellings said the costs and benefits of HS2 did not justify the decision to build it.

He blamed lobbying from civil engineering firms, among others, for the government pursuing the scheme.

“A group of powerful special interests appears to have had a disproportionate influence on the government’s decision to build HS2,” said the report.

“The high speed-rail lobby includes engineering firms likely to receive contracts to build
the infrastructure and trains for HS2.”

Wellings previously authored an IEA report titled High Speed 2: The Next Government Project Disaster?

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