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HS2: Government has 'no convincing case' for £50bn rail line

Promotional picture of HS2 rail link. Photo:

The Government has yet to make a convincing case as to why the £50 billion HS2 high-speed rail project is necessary, according to a highly-critical report by a House of Lords committee.

There are less-expensive options than HS2 for solving overcrowding on the railways but these have not been properly reviewed, the Lords Economic Affairs Committee said.

In its report, the committee said there was a strong case for improving the trans-Pennine links (the so-called HS3 option) or building the second phase of HS2 first.

The first phase of HS2, from London to Birmingham, is due to open in 2026, with a second Y-shaped phase to Manchester and Leeds due for completion around 2032/33, although this date might be brought forward.

The chairman of the committee, Lord Hollick said, the high speed rail link was supposed to rebalance the economy but it is London rather than the North or the Midlands that is likely to be benefit most from HS2:

London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2.

Investment in improving rail links in the North of England might deliver much greater economic benefit at a fraction of the cost of HS2.

– Lord Hollick, Chairman of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee

A Department for Transport spokesperson defended the project and said it is crucial they press ahead with delivering the rail line on time and budget:

We have been fulIy transparent about the project. HS2 will deliver over £2 for every £1 invested and the economic benefit of the project was recognised by MPs of all parties who voted 452 to 41 in favour of HS2 at the second reading of the hybrid Bill.

– Department for Transport spokesperson

Parliamentary scrutiny of major infrastructure projects is important to ensure they deliver value for money. However, this scrutiny must not be used to derail or delay the construction of projects that are vital to future UK success.

– The British Chambers of Commerce

As currently planned the high speed rail network will be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK.