Engineers and the government have hit back at a report which last week labelled the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line from London to the North as the “latest in a long series of government big-project disasters.”
The Institute of Economic Affairs’ (IEA’s) “High Speed 2: the next government project disaster?” report claimed that HS2 is commercially unviable and taxpayers will bear a high proportion of the financial risks.
“The wasteful allocation of resources is demonstrated by the ‘gold-plating’ of the HS2 route,” says the report. “The first 8km from Euston to Old Oak Common, for example, will add almost 25% (about £4 billion) to the cost of the first phase but deliver negligible time savings.”
It also said that the government’s economic case for HS2 depended on estimates of demand growth that are very high compared with a range of previous forecasts for long distance rail travel.
The report said that the effect of competition from other rail lines had been ignored when projecting future HS2 ticket prices and passenger numbers.
Lower prices would make the project even less viable.
However, a Department for Transport spokesman said high speed rail was “not something this country can afford to ignore.”
“The government’s proposals for a new high speed rail network would deliver £44bn in economic benefits for the country and support broader job creation, regeneration and economic growth,” the spokesman said.
The ICE did not respond directly to the IEA report but has supported the project in its response to the government’s consultation on HS2.