Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Think Tank Pours Scorn on Rail Plans; Too Expensive, and It Won't Tackle Divide

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Think Tank Pours Scorn on Rail Plans; Too Expensive, and It Won't Tackle Divide

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson

ADAMNING report has accused ministers of backing a high speed rail line despite it having little or no impact on the North-South divide.

Researchers at the Adam Smith Institute have told the Government that High Speed 2 will clearly not make enough revenue to cover operational and construction costs and will bring very few tangible benefits, based on a look at the London to Brussels high speed line.

Ministers have been told the pounds 17bn cost of building a line from the capital could be better spent, with an even stronger case against eventually spending pounds 50bn extending the line through Newcastle and up to Scotland.

The think tank's claims stand in stark contrast to a barrage of evidence from within the region saying that bringing high speed trains to the North East could add some pounds 3bn to the regional economy thanks to reduced journey times to London.

Under current plans the Government proposes to build a line to Birmingham first, and then extend the route north to Leeds and Manchester within the next two decades. Trains would then travel on conventional lines, and at a slower speed, to Newcastle.

The Adam Smith Institute has said the justification for the rail investment is based on intangible benefits such as a narrowing of the North-South divide.

But, the think tank warns, a similar reason was used to justify the investment of the TGV in France and its losses continue to be underwritten by the French taxpayer. Sam Bowman, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: "The case for High Speed 2 is based on wildly unrealistic projections. It will probably end up making a loss, and will mean a lot more borrowing for the government in the meantime. There are no significant benefits to HS2. It will cost a lot of money and achieve virtually nothing.

"Governments are spectacularly bad at predicting the future, and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for a project with no significant benefits.

"To spend at least pounds 17bn and up to pounds 50bn on a train network for which there is no demand is wasteful enough; to do so at a time of austerity is obscene. …

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