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11.09.13

HS2 will be ‘heart bypass’ for clogged railway

New research suggests HS2 could boost the economy by £15bn a year, as the Government promises a ‘fightback’ against recent criticisms of the massive project.

Produced by KPMG, the new report addresses concerns around the new line’s cost, with the most recent of these being a report by the Public Accounts Committee who argued its benefits were based on “fragile numbers”.

In a speech to the Institute of Civil Engineers in London, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin pledged to deliver the project within its £42.6bn budget.

The main reason for building HS2 was not speed he said, but capacity – to give “a heart bypass for the clogged arteries of our transport system”.

The investment in HS2 did not detract from spending on other areas of transport, he added, with £70bn of capital investment planned for the next parliament. Just £16bn of this is earmarked for HS2.

McLoughlin said: “The point about High Speed 2 is that you won’t have to travel on it to gain from the better transport system and economic growth it will support.

“People who may never use the new line will still gain from more services for towns and cities up and down Britain. More room for local trains. More space for direct services to London from places that can’t get them today. More space for freight trains – to free up our motorways.

“It will make Liverpool stronger, Manchester stronger, Leeds stronger, Britain stronger. A £15bn annual boost to the economy, with the north and midlands gaining at least double the benefit of the south.”

He added: “Controversy needn’t be a sign you are getting things wrong. Often it is a sign that you are doing something that really matters.”

But Institute of Directors’ chief economist, Graeme Leach, said: “This report tells us nothing about whether HS2 is the best way to spend £50bn on the rail network as its method for calculating benefits has not been applied to other potential rail projects. You can’t shift the goalposts for one scheme without making a fair comparison with alternatives. In our view, HS2 remains poor value for money.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Image c. HS2 Ltd

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