HS2: A price worth paying

The financial figure attached to the HS2 project is a big one. It is as much as £88bn, according to latest reports. 

Of course, if the much-needed infrastructure project had been built when it should have been, 40 years ago according to its chief architect Lord Andrew Adonis, that price tag would have been significantly lower.

If HS2 is further delayed following a review that has been announced by the government, then the likelihood is it will never be developed. Imagine the cost in 2029?

So, do we need what critics describe as a vanity project and advocates claim will drag transport connectivity the Northern Powerhouse into the 21st century?

In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal yes because currently much of the region’s rail network is stuck in the 19th century. This project, along with the east-west line that will better connect northern towns and cities, is essential if the stated ambition to rebalance the UK economy is to be anything more than a politician’s soundbite.

The name, I confess, doesn’t help. HS2 has nothing to do with speed. Getting to and from London half an hour quicker from Preston is hardly a game-changer.

£2bn a year to create a state-of-the-art rail project is chicken feed.

However, helping the north retain talent, providing people with greater job opportunities and providing businesses with access to new customers and clients in UK cities and regions are all proven, evidence-based advantages that the scheme will deliver.

That is a prize worth having. And don’t fall for the Westminster mandarins’ line about choosing which is most important, HS2 or the Northern Powerhouse line.

We need and deserve both. This is an investment for the next 100-plus years. Some £2bn a year to create a state-of-the-art rail project is chicken feed. Remember too, Londoners receive £2,555 more than northerners on transport spend. HS2 won’t equalize that, but it will be a decent start.  

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