A group of peers have warned that the touted High Speed 2 (HS2) railway will not offer value for money and risks “short changing” the North of England. HS2 is planned to run up to 18 trains per hour at a top speed of 225mph, with phase one set to open in 2026.
A report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee also said it was “far from convinced” that the new high-speed railway will be built within the £55.7bn budget. It said the project should not go ahead without new assessment of its costs and benefits. The committee said that more than £4bn had already been spent on the first phase of HS2, which will run between London and Birmingham. The government said it “fundamentally disagreed” with the report.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “By 2020, the government will have invested a record £13bn in transport across the North, and we have a clear plan for linking the Midlands and the North through HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – the full benefits of which can only be delivered on the back of HS2. This is not either/or, we are clear we want both. HS2 will deliver additional rail capacity, significantly improve connections and provide opportunities for economic growth – with around £92bn in benefits – for people and businesses across the North.”
The committee, which includes former chancellors Lord Darling and Lord Lamont, said the scheme had put too much emphasis on cutting journey times and it was not enough for the economic impact on the regions. It said the first phase of the project offered “little benefit” to northern cities, despite them being most in need of better rail infrastructure. And the second phase, which would improve journey times between Leeds and Sheffield, risked never going ahead because of spending overruns. “The northern sections of High Speed 2 must not be sacrificed to make up for overspending on the railway’s southern sections,” said Lord Forsyth, who chairs the committee. It also urged the government to control the costs of HS2, amid warnings that “nobody knows” what the final cost will be. The report is the latest in a series of warnings about the railway, amid concern over its finances and environmental impact.