Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, has stated that HS2 has the weakest economic case of all the UK’s major infrastructure projects. Its £55bn budget dwarves that of Hinkley C and Heathrow combined, which are both £18bn projects.
Strangely though, Chris Grayling, the new transport secretary, still thinks it’s a good idea:
“Of course it makes sense, if we’re going to build a new railway line, for it to be a fast railway line, to reduce travel times from north to south… That’s logical.”
Quite an assumption, and a wrong one. Higher speed does not necessarily mean better. If that were the case, we would have a 100mph national limit on motorways. But the reality is that higher speed means more noise, more accidents, more congestion and lower fuel efficiency. This applies to rail as well, but is compounded by the fact that trains have to make regular stops which means more accelerating, more braking.
Andrew Tyrie said:
“The question of whether it is possible to improve capacity at lower speed and, consequently, at a lower cost, has not been comprehensively examined.”