HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Budget debate: the pursuit of icons

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Budget debate: Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham, Conservative)

“I notice that HS2 is again included in the infrastructure pipeline. In the words of Sir Rod Eddington in his 2006 transport study:

‘The risk is that transport policy can become the pursuit of icons. Almost invariably such projects—‘grands projects’—develop real momentum, driven by strong lobbying. The momentum can make such projects difficult—and unpopular—to stop, even when the benefit:cost equation does not stack up…The resources absorbed by such projects could often be much better used elsewhere.’

Public sector overspend is certainly the trend. Two recent projects—HS1 and the channel tunnel—went 36% and 99% over budget respectively, and the average overspend on 11 recent major public sector building projects has been 158%. If HS2 continues, that trend will cost around £72 billion, and the Institute of Economic Affairs has estimated that it could go up to £80 billion.

We do not even know what the HS2 compensation packages will add up to. There are nearly 500,000 properties within 1 km of the proposed line, but the Government have not yet been able to give us details of the compensation package. I hope that when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury responds to the debate, he will be able to provide a light at the end of that particular tunnel, although I hope that it will not be in the form of a train coming towards me. Those people need to know what the compensation package will be, and when it will become available. Constituents of mine are losing their houses and their livelihoods. They are being evicted from their properties without proper compensation, and they need to know that the Government are listening and paying attention to this matter.

This project has to be queried at every step along the way. We are still paying down a large debt, and to pay down the money that will be spent on HS2 will involve us in untold interest and expenditure. Even business and industry do not want HS2. The Institute of Directors recently surveyed more than 1,300 directors to gather their views. The results revealed that the IOD’s members
would rather see £50 billion spent on bringing Britain’s existing transport infrastructure into the 21st century. Over the past two years, the importance of high-speed rail to IOD members’ businesses has fallen significantly. HS2 is not the infrastructure project that Britain needs; nor is it the one that British business wants. Not enough businesses stand to benefit from it. It will benefit the
few businesses, rather than the many.”


Written by hs2questions

March 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm

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