David Davis MP writes for The Times Red Box on the need to scrap HS2 and focus on projects to benefit all areas of the UK


As published in The Times Red Box:

The case to scrap HS2 is getting stronger and stronger each day. It is becoming increasingly clear it will not be value for money, it will not bridge the north-south divide and it will not help ease congestion across the rail network.

In 2010, we were told HS2 would come at a cost of £32.7 billion. Since then we have seen costs rise and rise to the current estimate of £56 billion.

From my time as chairman of the public accounts committee I know the cost is sure to keep rising. Massive, complex projects run by the government invariably overrun. I would not be surprised if the final cost of HS2 hits double, or even triple where it stands today.

The benefits the government claims HS2 will bring simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

We are told it will bridge the growing divide between the north and south. But the government’s own analysis says 40 per cent of the economic benefits will go to London. It will simply serve to exacerbate the flow of talent and investment from the regions into the capital.

The most congested rail route in the country is the line from Glasgow to Manchester, which at peak time is at 211 per cent capacity. HS2 will do absolutely nothing to solve this. If politicians continue to make promises about boosting the northern regions, and continue to fail, resentment and disenchantment will only grow.

Yesterday, I launched an excellent report by the TaxPayers’ Alliance which compiled 28 alternative infrastructure projects to HS2. It was full of exciting, imaginative ideas that could bring about regional economic growth, improve congestion and bridge the divide between north and south.

In my area of Yorkshire, for example, a rapid transit network in Leeds combined with reopening both the Skipton to Colne line and the Beverley to York line, could provide a real boost to the local economy.

In the Midlands, electrifying the Chiltern and Midland main lines, and re-opening the Sutton Park line, would provide much needed capacity in the region.

Combined, all 28 projects could be delivered cheaper and quicker than HS2. They would provide a genuine boost to the whole country. The northern powerhouse and the Midlands engine would be turbocharged and would be solid government policies with significant economic impact.

What’s more, at a cost of £45 billion, these projects are cheaper than the current estimated cost of HS2. It would also leave cash to spare for fibre-optic rollout, deficit reductions or other valuable infrastructure projects around the country.

National infrastructure investment is historically low and badly delivered. But with incredibly low global interest rates and a strong economic outlook, this is a great time to build for a strong post-Brexit future for the UK.

With any massive project like HS2, we must ask is it worth it? The answer is no. Will it bridge the north-south divide? No. Will it improve capacity and congestion? No. Should we go ahead with it anyway? Absolutely not.