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HS2 will boost the economy for decades to come – but claims of waste and folly shouldn’t be ignored

Editorial: Every time reviews of the high-speed rail link are released, alarm bells are sent ringing – costs are spiralling out of control and the current rumour places a £106bn price tag on the project

Monday 20 January 2020 23:56 GMT
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The project will reduce the unbearable pressure on capacity and make journey times shorter
The project will reduce the unbearable pressure on capacity and make journey times shorter (PA)

Any visitor to one of Britain’s magnificent Victorian railway stations is usefully reminded of two things. When they arrive at gems such as, say, Huddersfield (1850), Edinburgh Waverley (1846) or St Pancras (1868) they are awed by the ambition and pride of the architects and engineers of the day – and, more prosaically, that these cathedrals of travel stand as testament to the fact that investment in public transport infrastructure usually has a very long period of payback.

It is in this deep historical perspective that the current debate about the HS2 lines to the midlands and north needs to be placed.

Every six months or so some leak of one or other official review of the high-speed rail scheme sends alarm bells ringing when the reported cost keeps rising by tens of billions of pounds. So it is with the current rumour that the latest exercise in political prevarication, the Oakervee review, has put a price on the project of some £106bn. That is another 20 per cent or so higher than the projected cost stated in a previous report, by HS2 chairman Allan Cook, as recently as last September.

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