Shropshire Star comment: Wheels in motion for costly HS2

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Coming somewhere near you soon. But not too near, unless you’re unlucky.

A hugely expensive railway which will cut a few minutes off your journey times if you’re going down to London.

HS2 is a flagship scheme much beloved by some politicians and business leaders, and sold to the public on the basis of the benefits it will bring, linked to assertions that although it will cost a substantial sum, it will all be worth it. This is modern, 21st century Britain, showing the world it is prepared to invest in infrastructure to keep pace with other major nations like France and Japan with their dazzlingly fast trains.

There is, as we all know, a lot of controversy about HS2, but the politicians gave it the nod nevertheless. It is one of those projects, like the Millennium Dome, which has become something of a showpiece and an emblem. That is fair enough, but the latest news of spiralling costs suggests the public has been sold a pup, at least so far as the promises on costs have been concerned.

That is the problem with showpieces in which reputations are invested as much as money. There is that danger a point is reached in which they are going to be built at any price. Until HS2 is completed, we will not know for sure what the overspend is going to be, but those who have followed things closely will not be particularly surprised by the worrying cost forecast from the Midlands Economic Forum.

It reckons that if you throw in all the fiddly bits and extras, like rail connections, it will come in at £157 billion, compared to the £55.7bn it is supposed to be for completing all three phases.

Pretty worrying, yes, but not worth worrying about – because it will be the equivalent of jumping off a cliff and then worrying about what you have done while on the way down.

A course has been set and now, unless something really dramatic happens, we are cemented to the tracks. Commuters who make their journeys in the Midlands in standing-room-only trains will wonder how many extra carriages or otherwise improved local services that HS2 overspend could have funded.

People living near the new line and seeing the environmental damage may well make the point that the rationale for HS2 was based on misleading the public about its true financial cost.


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