HS2 has cost us £1bn so far and it hasn't even been officially approved yet

The fastest gravy train in history

The world’s most expensive trainline in history, HS2, is racking up vast costs before it has even gained official consent from Parliament.

The taxpayer-funded train line, the first phase of which will cut journey times between London and Birmingham by 20 minutes, is already on course to have cost £1bn within the next few months, according to reports in the Financial Times.

HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby is the UK’s highest-paid civil servant, with an annual salary of £750,000. The company he heads now has over 900 employees, and is on a recruiting drive.

Meanwhile, costs are not being kept any lower for taxpayers by the fact the HS2 headquarters are based among the gleaming spires of Canary Wharf.

When construction begins, expected in 2017, the 2011 forecasts for the cost stood at £47m per kilometre of track.

Even the chairman of the world’s most expensive existing railway, the UK’s HS1, is sceptical and believes a normal railway could do the job cheaper. According to the FT, HS1’s Rob Holden said: “HS2 is not good value for money. But one of the problems is that they are now so far down the design, that to redesign it would involve a lot of abortive costs.”

The FT’s Gill Plimmer also points out that existing high-speed railway lines - including HS1, which connects Britain to Europe through the Channel Tunnel - struggle to make a profit and receive state subsidies to keep them on the straight and narrow.

This is due to high ticket prices, which significantly reduce demand.

The same effect is expected to hit HS2, which will largely serve as a replacement for business travellers from Euston. Serious questions remain over demand for the service as existing first-class travel is rarely fully booked and often nearly empty.

Defending the immense cost of the railway line, Kirby said it was a “once in every 150-year opportunity to reconfigure the country’s rail network”.

Thousands of objectors are set to make their case to MPs in the coming months in a bid to prevent the new line being built.

Elsewhere, the economic benefits of the track have been called into question, as HS1 delivered no economic gain for the areas through which it passes. According to think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, the employment rate has actually fallen by 5% in that area of the south east since it was completed.

What HS2’s £50bn could really buy us - we do the maths

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Well the tax payer is certainly being taken for a ride on this one!

    How can anyone be worth £750,000 a year and they don't even have to make a profit!

    The whole thing needs to be scraped - things like autonomous cars and a infra structure for electric vehicles would be a lot better investment rather than pandering for a transport system that only the rich and taxpayer supported can use.

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  • @Brian M - the idea that more cars is a better answer to the country's transport problems is ridiculous.

    Rail is a lot more efficient, the problem is that ticket prices are too high. That problem was caused by privatisation. The rail network takes FIVE TIMES the public subsidy it did when it was state-owned, despite ticket prices having risen 400%.

    The Tory-led ideology that railways must not be state-owned is ludicrous. Both the French and the German governments now own and run parts of our rail network. Apparently any other government can run our railways except our own.

    It's also not supported by the public. More than 70% of people want to see the railways re-nationalised.

    And that is the answer - re-nationalise the railways.

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  • Anonymous

    HS2 is and always was just one part of the EU's Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Policy. In other words the EU requires national Governments to allow the EU, ‘Sovereignty’ (or 'authority') to decide what we must have on our very own United Kingdom's land, sea and air.

    See also Single European Sky. See also EU's Motorway in the Sea. Brussels, 21.11.2011 COM(2011) 782 final Developing a Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area.
    If this or any British Government agrees with this, they will indeed be PAYING to give away "Sovereignty" (Authority) over our land, sea and sky. They have already got YOU for you are all EU Citizens. Never again will we be able sing Rule Britannia, Will we?

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