John O’Connell, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, says Yes
HS2 should be scrapped. It is based on a bad business case that unravelled as soon as it was presented, and the Lords report should be the final nail in its coffin. The initial business case assumed average passenger income of around £70,000.
Were that to materialise, then it would simply be a line for well-off passengers paid for by less well-off taxpayers. And the Lords report is damning too. It says that HS2 does not address capacity issues and that it will not help to stimulate growth in the North and help the government “rebalance” the economy. There are far more worthwhile transport projects. Easing congestion around commuter towns and increasing capacity on existing lines would be cheaper and preferable.
Furthermore, the benefit per pound spent is usually better on road projects than rail. New technologies will make HS2 redundant by the time the first train is due to leave Euston – not least the development of driverless cars.
Robert Goodwill MP, minister for transport, says No
HS2 will be transformational, supporting growth by improving connectivity, freeing up space on our crowded rail network, promoting regeneration, boosting skills, generating thousands of jobs and helping to secure our future prosperity.
It is a vital part of the government’s long-term economic plan, strongly supported by Northern and Midland cities, alongside our plans for better east-west rail links. HS2 will deliver over £2 of benefits for every £1 invested. It has strong cross party support, with MPs voting 452 to 41 in favour of it at the second reading of the Hybrid Bill. The Transport Select Committee also backs the strategic business case and is confident that HS2 is the only practical way to significantly increase rail capacity.
Demand for long-distance rail travel has doubled and, without HS2, key rail routes will be overwhelmed, stifling growth across the country. It is crucial we deliver it on time and on budget, and we remain on track to start construction in 2017.