HS2 project under pressure again as Parliamentary group questions its worth

AN INFLUENTIAL group of MPs has piled more pressure on the embattled HS2 high-speed rail project by suggesting the estimated benefits of the scheme are dwindling.

The Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Transport was failing to present a “convincing strategic case”.

The committee added that it was instead based on “fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life”. 

However, the Government has defended the project – which will see 225mph trains linking Birmingham and London by 2026 and linking to Manchester and Leeds six years later.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin insisted the case for HS2 was “absolutely clear”.

Criticism from the committee follows soon after business group the Institute of Directors (IoD) called HS2 a “grand folly”. Senior Labour politicians Alistair Darling and Peter Mandelson have also come out against the project as has right-leaning think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs. 

The committee’s report said: “The department has yet to demonstrate that this is the best way to spend £50bn on rail investment in these constrained times.”

Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: “The pattern so far has been for costs to spiral – from more than £16bn to £21bn plus for phase one – and the estimated benefits to dwindle.”

But transport secretary McLoughlin rejected the committee’s findings and said without HS2 key rail routes would be “overwhelmed” by rising passenger numbers.

“The project will free up vital space on our railways for passengers and freight, generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and deliver better connections between our towns and cities,” he said.

The Government will publish its own report this week arguing that HS2 will generate billions of pounds for the economy.