Monday, June 24, 2019
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Now we learn that HS2 is causing "much worse" damage than expected, it confirms that this is a flawed project

Today, we report that HS2, the planned high-speed line from London to Birmingham and the North of England, will cause "far worse" damage to homes, businesses and the environment than feared.

This should not come as a surprise when the news that the project is more expensive than originally planned, or that his army of advisers and bureaucrats paid generously for their work on this flawed project.

The Independent has long expressed its reservations about the system. We know that capacities on the existing East and West Coast lines are already stretched and that Marylebone's second London-Birmingham line will soon be full. But we were never convinced that this particular scheme was the best use of the huge capital resources that were earmarked for it.

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Our skepticism was confirmed by the near-collapse of the Northern Railway services this year. For the economy of Manchester, Liverpool and the surrounding areas, it would be more important to invest more in local rail transport over the next few years than to establish another fast connection to London in 2033.

The same story takes place in other parts of the country. In one of his first transportation secretary decisions, Chris Grayling picked up rail electrification projects in South Wales, the Midland Main Line and the Lake District. Wherever you look, in Scotland, Northern Ireland (where the railways are still in the public domain), commuter traffic in the southwest and London, there are economic benefits that could come from increased investment that would primarily come from decades of HS2.

And that's before we even think about better bus services, which would be cheaper and would benefit more people on lower incomes than railroad subsidies, which tend to be used by the better off. Against electric or hybrid buses or new forms of low-carbon carpools, even the environmental aspect of railway megaprojects is rapidly weakening.

All this means that the biggest argument against HS2 is its opportunity cost: that its huge price is money that could better be spent elsewhere.

The questions that should be asked are whether it is too late to stop the project and whether it is realistic to try. The big construction phase is imminent, and even if there were early elections, Labor has committed to "completing" HS2 in its manifesto last year.

So it would be reasonable to assume that the first phase is likely to take place, at least from London to Birmingham. But we should not allow it to distract from better, faster and cheaper transportation investment that would bring greater and earlier benefits to the rest of the country.

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