The Transport Secretary confesses HS2 will be more expensive this Parliament


               I reported here my question of the cost of HS2 this Parliament to Miss Greening.  She told me they would “only” be spending £200 million this Parliament on preparation work. By the standards of  recent government  spending, that was reassuring for three and a half years.

             Today I received a letter. It told me the total cost of HS2 “is expected to be £32.7 billion…..Of this the cost of the scheme this Parliament will be around £750 million”. She had apparently recalled the cost of land acquisition, not all the consultancy and planning costs.


  1. Disaffected
    January 24, 2012

    Clearly she is not up to the job. She should know her facts before committing the country to such an expensive venture with little benefit. There are far better things to invest in to get the UKs economy going. I can’t wait for the next election.

    1. Pete the Bike
      January 24, 2012

      Yes agreed, how about not borrowing the money in the first place, that would be a good investment.

  2. Antisthenes
    January 24, 2012

    Is this a case of her Sir Humphrey not briefing her properly. Being an avowed cynic I could believe deliberately so.

    1. Single Acts
      January 25, 2012

      If she was deliberately misled, the civil servant should go. If she failed to comprehend the difference in such an enormous amount of money, she should go.

      Neither will go and thus why politicians and the wider establishment are failing and are in terminal decline.

  3. Mike Stallard
    January 24, 2012

    I am posting here too. Now I am in a real muddle: the Minister seems to be saying one thing and the EU another in a directive (see below).

    “Member States shall provide the Commission with abstracts of national plans and programmes which they are drawing up with a view to develop the trans-European transport network, in particular in relation to the core network. Once adopted, the Member States shall send the national plans and programmes to the Commission for information.”

    “Core network corridor. 2. Warszawa – Berlin – Amsterdam/Rotterdam – Felixstowe – Midlands Amsterdam/Rotterdam – Felixstowe – Birmingham/Manchester – Liverpool
    Brussels,” XXX COM(2011) 665/3

    All roads lead to Rome? – No longer! Now it is Brussels!

    Reply: The existing east and west coast mainlines are part of the designated EU route network.

    1. APL
      January 25, 2012

      JR: “The existing east and west coast mainlines are part of the designated EU route network.”

      Until we have a brand spanking new High speed link, at which point the designations will mysteriously change.

  4. lifelogic
    January 24, 2012

    I did say that she was an accountant I would not want anywhere near any companies I held shares in. I would tack about only about an hour a calculator and an envelope to show that HS2 is totally absurd as an investment on any basis. Huhne’s absurd windmills even look better.

    How can someone so lacking in the basic facts be in charge. She is clearly just an actor reading the lines (rather badly) it seems.

    1. lifelogic
      January 24, 2012

      She would not have made such an error had she bothered to do the basic sums and question the project even for an hour or two she clearly can not have done so.

    2. APL
      January 24, 2012

      lifelogic: “How can someone so lacking in the basic facts be in charge. ”

      She isn’t, nor on this issue is Cameron.

    3. lifelogic
      January 25, 2012

      I cannot see how she could have made such a huge error had she consider the project sensibly for an hour or so. The impression it leaves is that she is presented with an agenda already decided by officials and is just a ham actor told to deliver the lines. She is clearly not looking at the merits of the overall project – it has none anyway as is very clear.

      In short the electorate, who are clearly against this absurd project, have no input to the process at all. The minister who should look after the interest of the voter is simply not doing her job. It looks as though the project is simply a way a diverting tax payers money directly into the pockets of friends of the powers that be – as consultancy fees. Is there any other explanation?

      1. BobE
        January 25, 2012

        Lifelogic, Twenty years of consultancy and lobbying plus the directorships to the companies vieing for the contracts. Its a vanity scheme designed to provide futures for ex government personel.
        Most probably it will never get built but the jobs created will provide for many an ex MP or civil servant for years to come.

        1. lifelogic
          January 25, 2012

          Indeed if it is not built it will leave even more money left for consultancy fees. After all, how best to abandon the project will clearly need many “experts” to advise how best to proceed.

      2. zorro
        January 25, 2012

        Ministers rely very much on briefing from civil servants and SPADs. It would not be surprising to me that she had erred in announcing the figures or not understanding the whole picture.


  5. Atlas
    January 24, 2012

    £750 Million ! Oh what a waste of money this H2S vanity project is.

  6. DaveK
    January 24, 2012

    Then double it and add the number you first thought of and voila!

  7. Simon
    January 24, 2012

    The number of ways in which £32.7 billion could better be spent is virtually uncountable. That’s over 270 million quid per mile, for goodness sake!

    This must be the largest white elephant in the UK’s history.

    Russia has just allocated less than £33 billion to design and build 26 new thorium nuclear power plants over the next 10 years. These would be enough to provide 80% of the UK’s electricity.

    And we’re getting a short run of railway? An extra 0.5% track length?


    1. sm
      January 25, 2012

      Sounds like the the Russian pencil versus the NASA space pen.

      UK peak electricity needs are approx 55-60GW, which = 30 plants * 2gw each.
      This route could solve help solve a number of issues compared with current potential dual use-nuclear builds. Safety,non-proliferation think solutions for Iran’s claimed energy needs.

    2. APL
      January 25, 2012

      Simon: “Russia has just allocated less than £33 billion to design and build 26 new thorium nuclear power plants over the next 10 years.”

      Yep, Russia will have a continuous supply of high quality electricity. Thanks to this ludicrous government, we will only be able to switch the lights on when the wind blows.

  8. APL
    January 24, 2012

    Greening: ” £200 million, … £750 million ..”

    Time frame 1 week

    That is one steep curve.

    1. Sean O'Hare
      January 24, 2012

      Steep yes, curve no – it’s a straight line.

  9. Mark
    January 24, 2012

    This is expenditure that could and should easily be deferred or cancelled. Spending £550m on consultants now for a project that may not go ahead is surely a massive waste of taxpayers’ funds. Besides, what on earth are they going to be doing that is so costly? Properly researching the project economics?

    According to this YouGov poll (page 7):

    just 8% consider HS2 to be a good investment – although interestingly, it has the support of 18% of Lib Dem voters. I can’t think of any Lib Dem constituencies that are affected by it – either positively or negatively.

    Reply: They still have to research and choose a route for the two northern lines from Birmingham.

    1. Mark
      January 24, 2012

      They appear to have been working on it already:

      From the linked Sunday Telegraph article at the above

      John Redwood, the former cabinet minister, has said: “This is a luxury we cannot afford.”

      We should bear in mind that the M6 Toll that some of us were maligning last week cost £1bn for 27 miles.

      1. Simon
        January 25, 2012

        At least the taxpayer didn’t foot the bill – £900 million of private cash, £33 million per mile.

        And who thinks that £32.7 billion (£272 million per mile) will be the final cost?

    2. Mark
      January 24, 2012

      This map has a list of affected constituencies appended:

      Just one (Manchester Withington) is Lib Dem.

  10. alan jutson
    January 24, 2012

    I worry that anything is correct these days from any government source.

    I see (Daily Mail reports) that spending on temps and consultants is now running into tens of £ millions per month.

    Perhaps this is the reason why staff say, “they are making cuts” but all we see is expenditure still going up.

    Perhaps the staff being made redundant, are now being replaced with temp staff and advisors.

    Thus staff on the books is lower, but not in reality as we have the same number working.

    Cuts but no cuts!!!!!!

    Any ideas John?

    1. zorro
      January 25, 2012

      The extra payments (quite ridiculous in some cases) to get rid of people voluntarily to meet staff reduction targets has not helped public spending figures. They should have halted further recruitment in the Civil Service and use planned natural wastage to downsize whilst reconsidering their business models.


  11. outsider
    January 24, 2012

    Ah yes, consultants and lawyers. And I wonder what their hourly rate might be and how that is covered by the new measures against “excessive” pay.

  12. Gordon
    January 24, 2012

    Mr. Redwood,
    Thank you for the follow up.
    I am not surprised at the understatement, but wrong by a factor of three, is irresponsible. It also creates concern about the validity of the estimated total cost, particularly when we, (the taxpayers) are being ‘squeezed until the pips squeak.’

    The root of my unease is the motive for this ‘white elephant’ as it makes no sense to me on a cost/benefit analysis anyway.
    We are deeply in debt but appear to have unlimited funds for nonsense, I am bemused.

  13. forthurst
    January 24, 2012

    I’m sure the Roman roads were great in their day; however they were not built for our benefit.

    1. forthurst
      January 24, 2012

      …although we probably paid for them.

    2. Sean O'Hare
      January 24, 2012

      HS2 will not benefit me nor will it benefit 99.9% of the rest of the population. It will destroy the peace and quiet of rather more than the 0.1% who will benefit. There is no doubt, though that it will make the EU Commission very very happy. So that’s alright then!

  14. Acorn
    January 24, 2012

    Believe nothing; question everything; trust no-one. I don’t know who said that but try this one. Tim Geithner (US Treasury Secretary) stated this in a recent media appearance: “[Government] Spending cuts are the same thing as a tax increase.” To understand that you have to absorb where the MMTers are coming from. Basically, the government has to run a deficit for the private sector to run a surplus cos the government prints the fiat money and everyone else is a user of the fiat money … simples. .

  15. Jon
    January 24, 2012

    We spend about £24 billion on an NHS IT project so you can turn up at any health centre and they will have access to your records. The problem is that after £24bn there is no such joined up system in place.

    We spent about £10 billion on a HMRC IT project which resulted in doubling the staff at the HMRC.

    This HS2 however, is an infrastructure project that will deliver economic benefits for generations. This is what that money should have been spent on. It will cost about 3 weeks worth of public expenditure but over the next 100 years how many extra freight journeys on the West Coast line will be added and how many business journeys to and from the North will happen over that 100 years.

    Yes Labour will waste money on stupid projects but if not them then who else will give this nation the real infrastructure it needs?

    1. Alan Wheatley
      January 25, 2012

      HS2 have explicitly excluded freight, according to the study report recently published – see DfT web site.

      1. Jon
        January 25, 2012

        Hi Alan. Correct that freight won’t be on the HS2 line but it will allow expansion of freight onto the West Coast line. If HS2 didn’t get built the freight that is currently on the West Coast would be removed to cater for more passenger services as they pay more than freight operators can.

  16. Vanessa
    January 24, 2012

    Is Mr Booker right to say that this is EU driven and that the continent will be the eventual destination? Against all common sense and logic this HS2 will be built for, probably, 3 times the estimated cost. The Dutch high-speed rail is a financial disaster and is costing its taxpayers millions but the EU must have harmonisation in its transport and communications infra-structure, to hell with what the people want or need to pay.

    1. APL
      January 26, 2012

      Vanessa: “Is Mr Booker right to say that this is EU driven and that the continent will be the eventual destination?”

      Cameron denies it.
      Clarke denies it.
      Redwood denies it.

      Greening denies it is TENs related, but has according to another commenter announced that the HS2 track will for mysterious reasons totally unconnected to the EU TEN project, be linked to the Channel Tunnel rail link to the Continent.

      Reply: I do not deny this could become an EU network, nor deny the link with the Channel high speed track. Of course they wish to link a new HS to their only older one. The only point I am making is I do not think we have to do this under EU rules – successive UK govts have chosen to propose this. The Yes/No decision just made by the government was one where they had the power to say No if they wished. Why would I wish to conceal an instruction from the EU if one existed, as I am regularly exposing examples of the EU having too much power?

      1. APL
        January 26, 2012

        JR: “The only point I am making is I do not think we have to do this under EU rules – successive UK govts have chosen to propose this.”


        The UK government is obliged under the terms of the Treaties to ‘promote ever closer union’, the puppet administration you support therefore has that aim.

        I am against the HS2, for numerous reasons a few of which I have outlined previously.

        But, that aside for one instant.

        Given that the link will be ‘greenfield’ there is no existing infrastructure to impede the construction of a link with radical brand new technology.

        Assuming you are correct and taking at face value the decision to build HS2 is ours. Will you lobby to get the infrastructure changed to maglev?

        Reply: I have opposed the scheme putright, and I have asked why if they must build it they do not build maglev. The reason they gave was they may wish to route normal trains along it as well. There’s no need to get angry with me, when I share your disagreement both with excessive EU power and with this HS2 scheme.

  17. Anne Palmer
    January 24, 2012

    And where are we going to get all this money from? Todays out look on our debts already are not looking too good are they?

  18. Elizabeth Williams
    January 24, 2012

    and £70 million of that was awarded to a US Company today creating 80 jobs! 80 jobs for £70 million!! Benefit caps would save £260 million and we are proceeding with £750 million on HS2. Where are the moral priorities there? There are some very dirty fingers in some very sticky pies somewhere!

  19. Charles Willcock
    January 24, 2012

    HS2 is likely to become the largest white elephant in the world. Clearly David Cameron dreams of leaving a lasting legacy, if he feels the need to spend tens of billions of pounds on this folly my vote would go on a national water grid ensuring that no part of the UK should ever have to want for clean water. With millions of tons of water falling in the north west why not build a network of waterways and pipes to take that water to the south-east and south-west. A far better legacy than a train service which makes no economic sense to anyone but the contractors on the job.

  20. Paul Wakeford
    January 24, 2012

    Scrap the entire idea – a scheme designed to waste money for the least return over the most restricted route system you can imagine..

    Why spend all that money so that a few “business people” can save a few minutes (15?) between London and Birmingham. Just one route – oh and a few years later perhaps Leeds etc. “Betcha bottom dollar” the seat prices will still bring tears to your bank account and first class will remain empty.

    And meanwhile the rest of us languish in funding neglected backwaters.

    Now, were we to have mainline trains of up to 15/16 coaches – that is to say bring them back to the standards of 40 and more years ago you would double the capacity of the network. We have locked ourselves into a train set based railway with short fairly fast trains but with no flexibility to add coaches to trains to cope with variations in demand.

    But they will not be so fast the modernisers will say; yes but really not by that much. And is all this speed really necessary? What is wrong with taking a little more time and visiting the buffet (or restaurant car if this delight has not already gone everywhere)? There are books we can read scenery to watch – my favourite train would be the Internet and Phone Free Express.

    Oh – you will have to lengthen the platforms. Perhaps; but only on some platforms on those stations that will be served by the longer trains – as happened 40/50 years ago.

    Oh – traffic congestion. Yes but we can re-instate the passing loops to hold freight and local trains whilst the fast trains go past at speeds already at around 125 mph.

    This means that the whole network can start to benefit right away, not just serving a few people on a single route in about 10 years and the rest of this little route a generation away but now, for all of us please.

    It will still be cheaper – create more jobs (now). And, without any nationalisation; between the wars a huge modernisation by the old companies assisted by government grants massively improved the railway system – and with faster times.

    Let the high expense people fly – planes are horrid anyway and they are welcome to them.

  21. uanime5
    January 24, 2012

    So for HS2 this parliament the Government is going to spend £200 million on land acquisition, and £550 million on consultancy and planning costs. Hopefully they’ll do the consultancy first, realise parts of HS2 are flawed, and won’t spend several billion pounds on rail links that won’t make significant time savings.

  22. Andy Hopkins
    January 24, 2012

    We should not have to rely on these sorts of enquiries – the whole budget should be published for all to see.

    It cannot be a national secret and it is the only way to ensure that this is being run efficiently and with no corruption.

    It is our money – why should we not see it?

  23. excalibur
    January 25, 2012

    John: A new airport in the Thames estuary would be a far better use for this money. Has this government actually paid down any amount against the national debt since taking office ?? I am aware the national debt reached one-trillion a few days ago.

    1. zorro
      January 25, 2012

      No, not at all. The government is still spending far more than it receives in taxes and other income and is continually adding to the debt (It is making very small inroads into the actual annual deficit). By the end of this Parliament, the national debt is expected to be over 1.4 Trillion pounds.


  24. alexmews
    January 25, 2012

    Incompetent. This is a weak and failed administration. Next.

  25. Robert K
    January 25, 2012

    Has anyone apart from the government said they like this idea? All I have seen is anxiety from local residents who are concerned about the impact on property values and their local amenity, from environmental campaigners who hate the impact on the Chilterns, and most prominently from taxpayers who are being forced to pay for the whole farago.
    Oh, and you can bet your bottom dollar that many more miles of [expensive] tunnel will be needed to placate those whose homes will be affected.

  26. frank salmon
    January 25, 2012

    I watched quite a bit of the select committee on HS2. The agenda seemed to be, ‘How can we justify the project.” There was no thought to the alternatives….
    Can anyone tell me how much it would cost to build a road instead of a railway – a road on which coaches drive at 80 mph and take you to various destinations in Birmingham and London? Surely the saving of 20 minutes on a train journey is irrelevant when it takes so long to get to and from the stations!

    1. Alan Wheatley
      January 25, 2012

      Various knowledgeable people have proposed various ways of increasing capacity on the existing network at much less cost, and also incrementally so improvements can be introduced in step with increasing demand (assuming demand does increase, of course). They put these proposals to the Select Committee.

      1. Robert Taggart
        January 26, 2012

        Indeed, but, they lack the ‘sex’ factor – so, alas, no chance in contemporary Blighty

  27. Chu
    January 25, 2012

    £750m is rather large sum to “accidentally” misplaced. Its a figure that trips out of one’s mouth quite easily, I suppose for this govt. What’s another hundreds of millions amongst its taxpayers?

  28. Joe Rukin
    January 25, 2012

    Thanks for this John,

    BUT you will find that the £750m is wrong too. This is an answer Philip Hammond gave in the commons last year (I think to Dan Byles) and it was how much MORE was to be spent this Parliament, i.e. it did not include the £69m which had already been spent at that point. I can’t find the reference to this, but am certain Hansard was clear on this point. I also believe (but am not 100% on this one) that the £750m did not include the value of land purchased – again Hansard should be clear on this.

    Previous Article –

  29. Electro-Kevin
    January 25, 2012

    HS2 will be more expensive full stop.

    Can’t we build more refineries and power stations instead ?

  30. nicol sinclair
    January 25, 2012

    if this is true, she’s a devious Toe(ry)rag

  31. Javelin
    January 25, 2012

    Why not canals? 😉

  32. Richard Grosse
    January 25, 2012

    I, for one, have and will be will be donating more money to the Stop HS2 organisation to help them raise a legal challenge, and will be as active as I can in digital media on spreading the truth and the questions on this issue. All the comments on here are highly admirable, but let’s start adding and sharing our ideas for stopping this runaway train, lest it reach it’s ridiculous destination! Keep up the anti and they might just listen!!

    1. Joe Rukin
      January 27, 2012

      Thank you!

  33. Alan Wheatley
    January 25, 2012

    HS2 seems to be one of those government “predict and provide” projects. Clearly predicting the future demand for passenger journeys is critical to the case for HS2. So I was interested to see on the 51M web site reference to a claim that the DfT have used the wrong version of the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook: Version 4 has been used but this has been superseded by Version 5.1. The RAC Foundation have produced a report which it is said shows that if Version 5.1 had been used the number of passengers predicted would have been 29% less!

    It seems the DfT will use Version 5.1 for their next analysis. If this does indeed produce a reduction of 29% then they better get on with it as this would seem to pull the rug from the project and it better stop right away.

    Feeling in the mood for a challenge, a quick Google took me to the DfT web site where I was able to read about the method applied in the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook. Two things struck me.

    Firstly, the method, while having an arguably sound analytical basis, does make significant simplifications, such as not addressing that part of the journey between end point stations and actual origin and destination.

    Secondly, although many factors are considered as to their impact on travelling by train, such as factors affecting the comfort during the journey and road options, there is no mention what so ever as to the impact of electronic communication alternatives. High speed broadband already allows video conferencing to achieve some communication objectives without the need to travel at all, and over the build timescale, let alone lifetime, of HS2 this facility will become dramatically more capable and available.

    Why would you take the train, no matter how fast, comfortable and affordable, if the objective of a meeting could be achieved from the comfort of your office using a high definition video conference? Surely a much better use of time and money.

    How much of this £750M has to be spent before the Government accept that the case for HS2 can no longer be sustained?

  34. Joe Rukin
    January 25, 2012

    FOUND IT – Hammond said £773m for 2011-2015 on 30th March 2011. It must have been £46m already spent at that point, as I know I got £819m this parliament from somewhere!

  35. Robert Taggart
    January 26, 2012

    Speaking as an anorak !… oneself says NO2HS2.
    Capacity be the big issue, the answer be simple if un-sexy – re-open the old Great Central Mainline between Aylesbury and the south of Leicester (where a triangular junction would be constructed) and, if that be not enough capacity – quadruple the old Great Western Mainline between Birmingham and London (and speed it up).
    Both options will have their difficulties, but, they are / were established transport corridors – they could be again.

  36. Frank Salmon
    January 26, 2012

    Here’s a very cheap alternative. How much would it cost to buy the unused M6 toll road? If that was bought, we would all be able to travel more quickly and safely between London and Birmingham.

  37. Frank Salmon
    January 26, 2012

    Got it. £900 million.
    So, for the cost of consultation on the HS2 White Elephant, we could be on our way to a decent transport link using modern technology for which the rolling stock has already been purchased.

  38. Steven Whitfield
    January 26, 2012

    So that is an eye watering £550 million in consultancy and planning costs for an unpopular and largely unwanted scheme. Well done David Cameron. How can this amount be justified ?. Somebody is getting a nice big drink out of this unhinged scheme.

  39. Alex
    January 27, 2012

    Anyone else utterly unsurprised that the costs of a large vanity government project are already rising rapidly?
    Were the incorrect figures given to Parliament before this was last debated? If so, it should be discussed again by parliament as if it were a new project (the trebling of costs in this parliment is a major change to the project).
    Imagine if the board of a large PLC discussed and agreed to a new project. It then found that the short term costs were treble the figures expected. I suspect that 2 things would result
    1. The Project Manager would be sacked
    2. The project would be reviewed again by the board.
    But then, a company is spending its own money, it can’t just bill the long-suffering taxpayer for the extra.

Comments are closed.