cancel overblown vanity project entirely says campaign group

  • Post last modified:February 7, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

There’s been more chaos around HS2, with a report from a parliamentary committee slamming the government and the project. However, the most scathing comments come from campaign group Stop HS2 – which says the ill-fated infrastructure development is an ‘overblown vanity project’ that should be cancelled altogether.

HS2: a costly, watered down project

HS2 is the UK’s second high-speed line after that to the Channel Tunnel. The government has consistently claimed that it aims to speed up travel between London and some of England’s major cities in central and northern England.

But the government recently revised down its lofty ambitions, taking into account concerns of local people and the environment, which has meant more tunnels and more cost. Jon Thompson, chairman of the state-owned HS2 company, said in 2023:

Here we do not ride roughshod over the environment, over planning law, over local authorities and local people.

But that comes at a cost, driving up the price of the project.

Combined, they have made HS2 one of the world’s most expensive rail projects per kilometre, according to economic growth association Britain Remade, which compared infrastructure projects in 14 countries.

As a result, Downing Street made two cuts to the route to reduce costs, following heated debate about the costs and benefits of the project. The project will now terminate in Birmingham – far from the northern hubs of Manchester and Leeds originally envisaged.

Now, a parliamentary committee has got involved – and issued a damning verdict on HS2.


As BBC News reported, the Public Accounts Committee has released a report into HS2. It was critical of the programme, as well as government decisions over it. BBC News noted the report said:

The cancellation of HS2’s northern legs means the project will be “very poor value for money”… [and] it was “sceptical” government would attract enough private investment to build a key new station at Euston…

It says that there are “many uncertainties” in the government’s assessment that it was better to complete Phase 1 of the project, rather than cancel the whole high-speed railway programme.

The Public Accounts Committee also said:

cost overruns and delays have been a constant problem throughout the whole HS2 project. The estimated cost of the completion of Phase 1 with inflation range as high as £67bn. Poor cost management indicates a failure of governance and oversight at both HS2 Ltd and [the Department for Transport], and the report calls for answers within six months as to how these issues will now be brought under acceptable and properly accountable control.

It’s chair Meg Hillier noted that:

HS2 is the biggest ticket item by value on the Government’s books for infrastructure projects. As such, it was crying out for a steady hand at the tiller from the start. But, here we are after over a decade of our warnings on HS2’s management and spiralling costs – locked into the costly completion of a curtailed rump of a project with many unanswered questions and risks still attached to delivery of even this curtailed project.

HS2: what an absolute mess

Campaign groups have also hit back at the government in the wake of the report.

Stop HS2 founder Joe Rukin said:

The Public Accounts Committee have said that no-one knows what the final cost of HS2 will be, they don’t know what the benefits of building are, the bosses running HS2 are over-confident, and that HS2 is poor value for money and private investors won’t touch it with a bargepole. This isn’t news, this is exactly what the Public Accounts Committee and others have been saying for over ten years.

Every time there is any independent study into HS2, it says the same things, there have been dozens of these reports from serious parliamentary bodies and government watchdogs, and every time they look into HS2 they say the same, that’s it’s a mess, that the people running it don’t know what they are doing, that the costs are going to keep on going up and it won’t deliver on the promises being made.

HS2 has been a national scandal from start to finish, it has only ever existed to line the pockets of the construction firms, and it is well past time that there is a full scale fraud inquiry into what continues to be the world’s greatest train robbery.

Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, added:

With just a rump of the overblown HS2 vanity project left, it is no surprise that the remaining plan offers the taxpayer very poor value of money.

Rishi Sunak was right to cancel HS2 Phase 2 last year, even in the face of intense lobbying. But he should have stood up to those in the Department for Transport and the Tory party who wanted the construction industry to continue to devour billions of pounds of taxpayers money and cancelled Phase 1 too.

HS2 should be cancelled in its entirety as soon as possible.

It remains to be seen if HS2 will ever properly be completed. Labour, likely to be the next government, has so far been wishy-washy over the project. So, one of the world’s most notorious white elephants remains in perpetual chaos.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Robin Stott – Geograph

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