HS2 under fire amid claims of hidden expense

Marion Dakers
THE HIGH Speed 2 project will not fix the capacity problems on Britain’s rail network, a research paper out today claims.

The Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) argues that putting longer trains on the existing West Coast Main Line would be a better value way to boost space on the route.

It argues that there has been a “dramatic deterioration in the HS2 business case” in the last two years, which have seen the government’s budget for the route from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds balloon from £33bn to more than £42bn.

The TPA also believes that there are tens of billions of pounds in hidden costs, such a new rail link to the terminal at Euston, which has been mooted as part of separate plans for Crossrail 2.

“The government may try to claim that it is sticking within the new budget by not acknowledging many of the costs of the project, treating additional investment needed to make HS2 work as separate projects, but in reality the already inflated cost will rise further,” it said.

The TPA paper also points to figures released during a judicial review of the project last year, which showed that peak services from Euston in 2011 were just 52.2 per cent full.

But the Department for Transport has made capacity a central argument for a new rail link. Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin described the scheme earlier this month as “a heart bypass for the clogged arteries of our transport system”.

As well as space required for freight trains, passenger franchise operator Virgin Trains has said that the route will be struck by capacity problems in the next decade. The first phase of HS2 is due to open in 2026.

The Labour party has this week wavered in its support for the scheme, after shadow chancellor Ed Balls warned that a future Labour government would not “write a blank cheque” for HS2 or any other infrastructure.