The government is promoting the High Speed 2 rail project as a solution to the North-South divide and as a green alternative to airport expansion. But the scheme will be very expensive and will require substantial taxpayer subsidies. The first phase, from London to Birmingham, has been costed at £18 billion, while the full route to Leeds and Manchester is likely to cost in excess of £30 billion. Moreover, the economic case for HS2 has been heavily criticised for exaggerating the potential benefits and playing down the potential risks. A recent IEA paper, for example, raised serious questions about the estimates of passenger numbers and time savings used in the cost-benefit analysis.
There are also concerns that the route of HS2 has been determined with little regard to the costs imposed on both taxpayers and affected property owners. Despite the criticisms, HS2 enjoys strong support at the very highest political level. Can it succeed in meeting its objectives or are politicians repeating the mistakes of previous big government projects?
Kyn Aizlewood, economic consultant and co-author, High Speed 2: the next government project disaster?
David Bayliss, RAC Foundation
Dr Kwasi Kwarteng, Conservative MP for Spelthorne
Matthew Sinclair, Director, The TaxPayers’ Alliance