HS2: Full Speed Ahead Despite Rising Costs


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Image by Simon Pielow

By Callum Tennant

A DRAFT REVIEW on the future of the controversial HS2 high speed rail project has recommended that the project goes ahead. While the report is not due to be published until after the current general election: the draft copy shows that the price tag of the super-project might go above the current £88 billion.While large changes which were being proposed such as cutting the speed at which the high speed trains run at to save money were not implemented, the number of trains an hour was recommended to be cut from 18 to 14.

In a move which has thrown the authenticity and honesty of the entire review into disrepute the re-view’s deputy chair Lord Berkeley said he did not support it. In a letter seen by media outlets Lord Berkeley states that the review has a “lack of balance,” and that he “cannot support its conclusions or recommendations.” At the heart of his com-plaints was that there was a trend in the review which was to assume that the project would inevitably go ahead, and also that HS2 Ltd’s claims on areas such as price were not properly scrutinised.

The price of HS2 has spiralled since the project began. Originally meant to cost just £33 billion, it is now widely expected that the end price could end up being over £100 billion. There have also been concerns over leaks which hint that HS2 Phase 2b now might not happen at all. HS2 Phase 2b is the second arm which goes east from Birmingham to Leeds. The proposed Phase 2b brings some of the most substantial reductions in travel time. For example, the time taken to get from Leeds to Birmingham would more than halve from two hours to under 50 minutes. The MP for Leeds Central said: “we’ve been planning this for a decade ... you can’t come along now and pull the plug. The north has been short-changed when it comes to investment in transport infrastructure.”

While the uncertainty over the future of HS2 may be reduced if the advice of this review is followed by the government, it does demonstrate the issues that have come to shadow large UK infrastructure projects. Crossrail, connecting one end of London to the other is now not going to be running until 2021 at the earliest.

It was forecast to be fully operational by 2018. Perhaps the single best example of how much the UK struggles with infrastructure projects is the Heathrow expansion.It was first supported by the government in 2009 but in the last decade,as with many other projects, indecision and plans being put on hold.