HS2: Worth the cost?
Image from HS2/PA Media
The HS2 high-speed rail line is a “loss-making” project, which will not be completed before 2041, a Conservative MP has told the Commons.
Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire Andrew Bridgen told Parliament that he had received information from a whistleblower within HS2 Ltd, which claims the first phase of the line, running between London and Birmingham, will not open until 2041, around 10 years later than planned.
He told MPs: “Experts in the field estimate that the energy requirements of HS2 trains will be five time that of conventional rail.”
He added: “Can we have an extended debate on the impact of HS2 on Government’s energy policy and the level of subsidy this loss-making project will have to be supported with annually if it is ever built?
“Could we have this debate before 2041, which is the date that my whistleblower at the very top of HS2 tells me the project for phase one will actually be able to carry passengers between London and Birmingham?”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed Mr Bridgen’s claims, saying: “I thought whistleblowing was more steam engine than fast high-speed trains but never mind.
“Obviously, the energy to run a train that is 440 yards long, that is two furlongs long, extraordinary length of train, at 225 miles an hour is more than running Ivor the Engine.
“And that is of course something that has to be built into the overall energy plans of this country.
“But the cost of energy to operate the HS2 network has been accounted for within the overall business case of the project and this energy will be procured in the open market at the right time to start operations and achieve value for money for the taxpayer.”
He insisted Mr Bridgen’s figures were wrong, adding: “The delivery and service of HS2 phase one remains 2029-2033, so I am interested in his whistle blower and I will of course pass the whistle on to the Secretary of State for Transport.”
Speaking at the Westminster Hall debate on Monday, the North West Leicestershire MP also claimed HS2 will cost £160 billion to build in full, £50 billion more than previous estimates.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said: “We are making significant progress delivering HS2, a key part of our promise to build back better from Covid-19.
“The project is already supporting more than 20,000 jobs, construction on Phase 1 has begun, and MPs have given their backing to the Phase 2a route.
“We will continue to rigorously control pressures, and as our latest update to Parliament confirmed, Phase 1 remains within budget and schedule.
“The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve.”
Phase 1 of HS2 was due to open in 2026, but in an update to Parliament in 2019, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the opening date would be pushed back to between 2028 and 2031.
In the HS2 six-monthly report to Parliament in March 2021, the DfT said the projected “delivery into service” date range is between 2029 and 2033.
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