Leaked HS2 cost review says proceed

14 November 2019

Great Britain – The High Speed 2 (HS2) project in the UK should go ahead, according to a leaked draft of the review into the project. Seen by British newspaper ‘The Times’, the report highlights the benefits to the North of England, despite significantly rising costs and falling estimates of the final return on investment.

Controversy has dogged all discussion of HS2’s costs and this report is no exception. The deputy chair of the review committee, Tony Berkeley, has immediately announced that he does not support the recommendations of the report and said that the costs have not been fully scrutinised. He also expressed concerns over the process of the report’s preparation, and the limited time allowed for the work. There is a suggestion that Berkeley will unilaterally publish an ‘alternative report’ in due course.

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin commented, “We always expected that a report headed by a former chair of HS2 and written by DFT civil servants would be a whitewash […] This admission that the cost of HS2 are tens of billions above budget vindicates what we and the whistle-blowers have been saying for years, and we now call on government to release all the evidence the panel received, and it is essential that the Serious Fraud Office produce an interim report.”

Frank McKenna, chief executive of ‘Downtown in Business’, as business networking company based in Liverpool said at the announcement of the review, “HS2 is not a nice-to-have vanity scheme as its critics claim. It is a long overdue infrastructure project that will drag the rail network beyond our capital city out of the nineteenth century and into the twenty-first.

“The GBP 55bn (USD 70bn) that is being quoted as the cost is ‘chicken feed’ when you consider that this investment will last into the next century and beyond. Equally, the significant benefits this will bring to the improvement of economic growth, business performance and productivity in the north and the midlands are huge and have been evidenced in many credible studies during the past decade.”

Costs now quoted reach as high as GBP 100bn (USD 130bn), but senior British Tunnelling Society figures have told Tunnels and Tunnelling that the UK’s rail network has already been upgraded to as great an extent as is possible, that there is no viable alternative to HS2, and that if it were cancelled, it would still need to be built in a decade’s time.

For a recent Editor’s Comment on this issue, see Tunnels and Tunnelling International, September 2019, p.3