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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spending £50bn on rail infrastructure is “the best option” and criticised decision-making based on “fragile numbers”, out-of-date data and assumptions that do not reflect real life.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continue to plough ahead with HS2 despite PAC's devastating criticism – that there is no convincing strategic case and out-of-date information and wrong assumptions were used which do not reflect real life.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


Louscales   09/09/2013 at 14:37

I would be opposed to any more spending on commuting beyond platform and train extensions. Most of our infrastructure is underutilised for most of the day. We must force employers to be more imaginative. If we aren't going to do HS2 how will we speed up travel on the existing lines? HS2 ought to reduce flying between the major cities if it is fast enough. Of course this hasn't happened as it should have done with the channel tunnel and HS1. Why? Also we must recognise the population will have increased by 10 million (around 15% by mid 2030s). How will we move all these extra people between the major urban areas or are we just going to let them all settle in the south east clogging up roads and rail short journeying in the rush to London?

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