The influential Institute of Directors today became the latest voice to join growing calls for the Government to scrap the high-speed rail project HS2.
A survey of its 38,000-strong membership found that just 41 per cent believe HS2 is important for their business, down from 54 per cent two years ago. Only 27 per cent felt the project represents good value for money.
“Businesses know value for money when they see it, and our research shows that they don’t see it in the Government’s case for HS2,” said Simon Walker, the IoD director general. “The IoD cannot support the Government’s current economic case for HS2.
“We agree with the need for key infrastructure spending, but the business case for HS2 simply is not there. The money would be far better spent elsewhere and in a way that will benefit much more of the country. Investment in the West and East Coast main lines, combined with a variety of other infrastructure projects, would be a far more sensible option.”
Eight out of 10 IoD members surveyed said investment in existing intercity rail services should be a priority over spending on HS2.
Mr Walker added: “It is time for the Government to look at a thousand smaller projects instead of falling for one grand folly.”
The embattled team masterminding the project has set up internal tests to ensure it has the skills to keep the project within its £42.6bn budget. The National Audit Office has signed off on a ‘board effectiveness review’. This gets the directors, led by chief executive Alison Munro and chairman Doug Oakervee, to rate their own performance and work out what training they need.
The move comes at a time when HS2’s opponents are apparently gaining the upper hand in their fight against a project that has already gone up by £10bn and, it has been warned, could even reach £80bn.
Ms Munro has denied there is a “blank cheque” for the project. Her team has pointed to HS2’s economic benefits, such as the creation of more than 100,000 jobs.