Should the government cancel HS2?

I voted against HS2 when the decision in principle was made by Parliament. I did so because the business case for it was very weak. The forecasts of likely passenger numbers and revenues looked far too high. The negative impact on revenues and traveller numbers on the competing routes was not taken very seriously. The main argument that we need to get to Birmingham faster changed into an argument that we needed more capacity to get to Birmingham, which the figures did not seem to justify.

I was on the losing side, and accepted defeat with a good grace. I accepted thereafter government and Parliament wanted it to go ahead.

Now the government is holding a genuine review. The immediate cause is the massive escalation in projected costs compared with the figures Parliament used to make the original decision. There is also substantial delay in delivering HS2 in the north, which was meant to be the main reason for the scheme. This gives me the opportunity to make a case again for cancellation.

The business case has clearly got a lot worse, as the capital cost is so much bigger. There is no way that the nation can earn a decent return on such a huge investment, given the likely passenger numbers and fare revenue possible on this new railway and the impact on the competing railways. It points to more subsidy and more losses.

Today though I wish to engage with the political argument that this railway is a totem of commitment to the development of the north and to fairer capital spending around the country, and must not therefore be stopped.

The irony is that for the next few years if we continue  there will be massive capital spending in London on remodelling a main station and in London and the Home Counties as money is spent on providing a tunnel out of the city to limit the environmental damage.  HS2 to Birmingham will be yet another major investment project where most of the money is spent in London and the south east, yet it is a project that the people closest to  in London and the south east vehemently oppose.

HS2 will do nothing to ease congestion in London and the Home counties or to make it easer for people to get to work from outer London or Buckinghamshire. So it will be a big investment in the south east that is not helping the south east.

Meanwhile northern commuters will be frustrated that their journeys are still made difficult by old trains and too little capacity. HS2 unites a lot of people in both north and south saying this is not the right project. We all want better trains, with more capacity into the cities. HS2 does not provide that in ways most people want. If we cancel we could have a big boost to northern rail spending in ways that do  directly help, and still save money overall.

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  1. Roger Phillips
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I agree it should be abolished it is a financial and environmental disaster waiting to happen.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Just think, if that money were spent on making Birmingham into a place, to which more people actually wanted to travel?

  2. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I live in the North West of England and always thought HS2 was no more than an expensive vanity project. I have never met anyone around here who supports or wants it and hope very much that it is cancelled and the money is put to better use in improving the country’s infrastructure.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Ahh… but our wonderful parliamentarians believe you need regularly and expensively travel to London in about 30 years time. In the mean time they are destroying the alternative system, the ‘motorways’ by increasing your of being involved in accident.

      As always they are good at wasting taxpayers money, not very good at providing value for money with it.

    • czerwonadupa
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      A George Osborne vanity project. I knew a garage behind Kilburn Park Underground station that had been in the same family for 3 generations that was compulsory purchased just to install an air vent for HS2. They also wanted to close down the Dogs Trust kennels in Harefield but ended up just taking a couple of fields. It also exposed the illegal basements built in Primrose Hill (home to Luvvies & the Chattering Classes) in north London without planning permission when surveying for tunnels but because of the type of inhabitants there nothing was done about it.
      And in this technological age with video conferencing does getting to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker justify this astronomical rising cost when there are far more projects up north needing finance?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Tax reductions would be a far better use.

  3. David Potter
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    To misquote Maggie,

    “Yes! YEs! YES!”

    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    HS2 is a EU-inspired political project designed to create a pan-European network system. We also see this in the gas and electricity network system. In effect a loss-making political project being imposed upon taxpayers who are sick to the back teeth of idiotic spending decisions by fools who have no concern for where the money comes from

    And while were at it, we don’t need China IT ‘expertise’ in developing 5G network. We don’t want the Chinese State involved, we don’t need the Chinese State involved in any aspect of the UK’s infrastructure. To see their actions in HK and then to think we are inviting them to participate is utterly offensive. We should always, if possible, align ourselves with our closest ally, the US. That cannot be sacrificed by pandering to the Chinese Communist State. Why are we pandering to them anyway? Why?

    • Dave Ward
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      “HS2 is a EU-inspired political project designed to create a pan-European network”

      Yes – it’s known as “TEN-T”:

      Since we are leaving the EU, why is the continuation of this vanity project even being considered?

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        Not really – the European Union makes its large conceptual input to a general integrated transport plan for the whole of Europe, but it is not by any means a project owned by it.

        There has never been any compulsion on member states to build any infrastructure as a part of it either.

        So whether or not the UK is leaving the Union is, in fact, unrelated to any decision in that regard.

      • glen cullen
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        not widely known, thanks for the info

    • rose
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Have you noticed how the broadcasters are making out it is just wicked Trump who is against our hitching ourselves to the Chinese communist tyranny? They never mention the views of the Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. They are trying to make out it is all Trump protectionism and that we must stand up to it. Has the Chinese tyranny got a finger in our broadcasting as well? I think Sky, certainly.

      • jerry
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        A fine example of BBC anti Trump bias today, after last weeks wall to wall, gabble to gabble, coverage of the Impeachment trial -the prosecutions case, often on multiple channels at the same time, now it is the turn of the Trump defence case it’s hard to find any coverage on the BBC, certainly nothing live from the Senate floor.

        Yes I know coverage is available via the internet from several sources, including the Senate’s own webcast, that is not the point.

        Looks like the BBC can’t even managed to provide its core PSB content now…

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      The idea of Pan-European networks is passe,it is all about Trans-Eurasia now.Mr Putin has won with his Eurasia concept.Emmanuel Macron knows this,Shinzo Abe knows it(the UK and Japan being on the extreme fringes are potentially the biggest losers,though Abe is moving fast to integrate his country with the Russian Far East where China and the Koreas also meet Russia),Nahendra Modi knows it(see the new Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor and his involvement in the Arctic).The German business lobby understands it extremely well.Moscow is the the power centre now;all the crucial routes pass through Russian territory and central Asia is assuming key importance-Uzbekistan is The Economist’s country of the year for instance.The EU will fade into irrelevance.

      The question for this country is whether,in concert with the US neo-cons, it continues in a vain attempt to disrupt what is happening and,therefore be left out in the cold,or submits to it.I believe sooner or later Boris Stanleiovich will kiss the tsar’s boot!

      If you read one foreign affairs article this year,read “Battle of the Ages to Stop Eurasian Integration” by Pepe Escobar,Asia Times 15/01/20 (free to view online).Escobar is one of the best writers on this subject-well connected,he has travelled the Silk Roads,old and new,and attends the related conference and think tank sessions.You will also better understand what’s going on with regard to topical (and highly propagandized) issues like Iran and Xinjiang(the Uighurs).

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Pan-European is inescapably part of pan-Eurasia though, isn’t it?

        Yes, and developing countries grow faster than developed ones.

        My word, not much gets past you, does it?

        • Mitchel
          Posted January 28, 2020 at 10:42 am | Permalink

          “part of” is the key phrase.The question is who controls it.

    • Man of Kent
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes ,it was EU inspired to provide a through route from China to the farthest extremities of the EU . A great idea but involving numerous axle changes as the track gauge changed .
      Then we looked at connecting HS 1 and HS 2 and found the heights between the two made this impossible , so containers have to be unloaded in the KX St Pancras area possibly to continue the journey on HS2 or to be loaded on to trucks for road delivery .

      So how to justify HS2 m ?
      First let’s go for speed , that is not economic so let’s go for capacity .
      And neither is that ! !

      The basic concept has never been justified and that is the problem .

      Far better to invest that £ 106 billion to solve capacity problems th

      • Mitchel
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        There is much going on in this respect.Traffic on the trans-eurasian routes is increasing significantly.Austrian and Russian railways are working closely together (Vienna is the centre of the old Austro-Hungarian rail network remember)-I believe the Russian gauge is being used for linkage through Slovenia for instance.

        There is also the Russian Meridian superhighway-a toll road which will link the key BRI rail hub at Khourgos in Kazakhstan with Minsk,connecting with routes to Moscow and Berlin,via Kazan(the Russian Tartar capital) on the northernmost of the Old Silk Roads.Construction starts this year.

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Of course they should be it look like they are not going to. Another huge mistake.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Of course they should, but it looks like they are not g0ing to. Yet another huge mistake.
      (This is what I meant to type must not use a small phone anymore!)

      This after the idiotic Carney retention to advise on the zero carbon religion finance.

      They should also cancel all the renewable subsidies and Hinkley Point C (I am pro nuclear but this is totally the wrong project), renounce the zero carbon religion, get real, cut taxes and remove the vast areas of government that do no good or positive harm. About half of it. Also cancel the soft student loans for worthless degrees (about 75% of them).

      They should also address the madness of the FCA which is giving up 40% and nearly 80% overdrafts rates for all. They clearly do not understand finance. In effect this withdraws overdraft facilities for solid customer as only someone desperate would borrow at these rates. It is an idiotic market intervention. Was this approved by the new BoE chap or did he not know what the FCA was doing?

  6. Javelin
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink


    Improve railways across the North rather than reduce journey times by 15 minutes between London and Birmingham.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      Look, if you lived in London, and could avoid spending a night in Birmingham on business, then wouldn’t you expect Government to pull out all the stops?

    • glen cullen
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      makes sense

  7. oldtimer
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Agreed. HS2 should be cancelled. It seemed to me from the outset that it was a political vanity project.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      I think it seemed idiotic from the outset to anyone sensible (unless perhaps one is profiting directly or indirectly from its construction or from some “consultancy” fees).

      Perhaps the most absurd claim for HS2 is that it is good for the environment!

  8. Nig l
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Whatever happens the politics of ‘supporting’ the North means much will be ‘thrown away’ with the poor old tax payer picking up the bill in higher than necessary taxes or poor services elsewhere.

    The Times yesterday reported umpteen billions in business support projects being unevaluated. A Cabinet minister quoted as saying ‘his gut instinct is HS 2 should proceed.

    And my fortune telling octopus says it shouldn’t. The levels of intellect are about the same.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      hmmmm…..a nudge to soften the outcry when it continues?

  9. Andy
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    HS2 goes through my local town. As the crow flies I live about a mile from it. I get stuck in HS2 construction traffic regularly. Where I live it is deeply unpopular.

    But I think it can’t come soon enough.

    In this country we are rubbish at big infrastructure. Not at building it – we’re good at that. But we spend literally decades debating this stuff. While we have approved HS2, and then reviewed HS2, and then maybe scrapped HS2, before the next government reinstates HS2 – China will have built several thousand miles of high speed railway. Meanwhile we are still trundling along on railway lines built by the Victorians because our politicians are too gutless to make a decision.

    It is wrong to say HS2 won’t benefit Home Counties commuters. It easily could if services run on it properly. Because what HS2 does is give us the opportunity – the first in decades – to free up huge amounts of capacity on our existing lines. But this will take bravery by the government. It means you will have to say that once HS2 is running there must be no more London to Birmingham fast trains on old lines. Only on HS2 can go no stop. Every other train has to stop at least once – providing additional benefits at other stations. It is the mix of fast, medium and slow paced trains that massively restricts service patterns at the moments – taking the fast trains out of the equation has real benefits on other lines.

    HS2 will be built. If it is scrapped now it will only be reinstated later – at a higher cost. As with all of these things – Terminal 5, the Millennium Dome, the Olympics, HS1, the Jubilee Line, the M25 – there is outrage before they are built but then nothing bad happens and life moves on.

    Stop debating HS2, get on with it and start debating HS3, HS4 and HS5.

    • IanT
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      I’ve some reservations about certain aspects of HS2 but Andy’s point is well made. When you isolate high speed trains to their own track, you free up a great deal of capacity on existing tracks that currently have to share space with high-speed, regional, local and freight services. Remove high-speed services and you can increase local and freight traffic considerably because trains can run closer together and therefore more frequently. So it’s not just about how much time is saved between London & the North, it’s equally (if not more) about freeing capacity on existing lines.

      The cost should also be considered in terms of “millions per mile” and compared to other investments such as Motorway extensions and the Channel Tunnel HS2 compares well. If we are really concerned about carbon emissions, then we should be taking money away from Motorways and getting back into rail – most especially for heavy freight. So it shouldn’t be HS2 ‘or’ local railways – the debate should be Railway versus Road. How much will a workable charging network for electric vehicles cost compared to just electrifying and improving the railways?? Keep electric vehicles for local transport (and charge at home) and use rail for longer distances. Beechams original vision was for a national rail network with local road distribution. The Government of the day only adopted the cost cutting bits….perhaps it’s time to reconsider this and get long distance travel & transport back on the rails?

    • Caterpillar
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I agree with Andy (is this the second time?) HS2 London-Birmingham-Manchester needs to be delivered ahead not behind schedule. HSns do then need to be debated and planned. It was the 60s that Japan had its first Shinkansen and it is still expanding with future routes to Sapporo and along the Sea of Japan. The Japanese approach to safety, puntuality, reliability, projects delivery is inspiring.

      Sadly I do expect the Tories to fail on this and continue to talk the talk but not walk the walk for the UK. Whilst the political centre remains in London so does the ‘world’view.

    • Richard1
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      It’s a question of cost. Every project has a cost at which it is and isn’t worth proceeding with. I was in favour of it when it was first announced. Once it was clear it would be a black hole I thought better to spend the money more wisely.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink


        If you don’t do large infrastructural projects you lose the competence to do them. A spillover from HS2 will (should) be to get the competence back. It is these real resources and capabilities that determine the future potential of the UK. The finance arguments are an artificial constraint that reflect the econo-financial system under which we operate. One must avoid being misled by these. As Dr Redwood has previously noted the UK govt owes money to itself with the BoE holding a quarter of UK debt… financial capital is an artificial constraint for infrastructure. Moreover it is widely recognised that the UK operates a low income, inefficient economy i.e. capacity is not fundamentally limited. The question is does the UK have the competence to deliver (and monitor) the project and if not can it get it? If the answer to each of these is in the negative then there is only a downward path. I don’t think many have grasped that the ability to deliver this project is likely more make/break than Brexit. (Since the London Olympics the UK has not shown itself capable of delivering anything – it is genuinely worrying).

        • Caterpillar
          Posted January 28, 2020 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

          I suppose I should belatedly add to this that not maintaing and developing competencies can have far reaching effects e.g. 5G decisions. The PM needs to rapidly put forward a strategy to get competence back in IT, defence, transport, energy etc. Being a leader in capital markets means nothing when it is an artificial constraint.

      • Andy
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        Like Brexit then? Cost £200bn so far – and rising. No gain.

        • NickC
          Posted January 28, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          Andy, Evidence??

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Andy, how far is the HS2 nearest station to where you live?

      So you want a monopoly on the new HS2 line built not by private enterprise but by the taxpayer? No competition unless you want to add more time to your already suitable journey!

  10. Stred
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    HS2 is over designed with speed 70mph above French TGV. This must have been the ultimate virtue signal. Just when the government is planning to reduce energy consumption because they are taking the advice of the emergency mongers, they are using vast sums of taxpayer’s money to go faster and use more electrical energy to make a train go faster than the French but over shorter distances.

    The cost could be cut by reviving the scheme proposed at a fraction of the cost to reopen part of the old Central Line, bypassing towns, running at normal speed and running freight containers to the North with better passenger service to stations nearer to the destination. This would do what the purpose has been declared ie to increase capacity and improve existing services. The ridiculously high salaries of HS2 should be cut back to the level of equivalent engineers on the continent, or sack them and hire new.

  11. No
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    “…this railway is a totem of commitment to the development of the north …”
    The north is developed.

    What isn’t developed because there wasn’t any demand for it were mayors in Yorkshire and Lancashire. In South Yorkshire there were two options on the ballot paper excluding “Do you want a Mayor at all?” Only 11% of the electorate voted and everyone was sent a postal vote irrespective. No ballot stations. 11% was the maximum vote divided between two un-called for options. In the next ballot a similar percentage voted in total, again having a postal vote.11%
    Scrap HS2 and scrap Regional Mayors.

    One sees Mr Starmer wishes “more power” to be rolled out to the regions. No thank you!
    That power amounts to a handful of people sat in a small room without any real electoral mandate. We don’t wish them to have power. Again, we do not wish those people to have power over us. Thank you!

    No to HS2 If this tiny number of people wish to go to London then they can hire a taxi van to transport the lot of them and pay their own fares.

    • NickC
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      No said: “Scrap HS2 and scrap Regional Mayors.”

      Absolutely right. We don’t need trumped up mayors on fat salaries. We don’t need the HS2 vanity project. We do need undergrounds in our bigger cities (relieves congestion and frees up intercity rail) and we do need motorway links (Sheffield to Manchester, for example) and sensible by-passes.

      • glen cullen
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        wise words indeed….hope someone is listening

  12. agricola
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    HS2 was not well thought out first time round. It’s deficiencies have been emphasised as time has passed. Now they are overwhelming and it does nothing for the transport problems and business needs of the northern half of the country. Money that could be well spent revitalising the neglected northern counties. So my advice is bite the bullet, reimburse all those who have suffered financially from HS2 preparation so far, and most important hold a six month consultation with the northern half of the country on a plan that will rectify all the deficiencies they have to contend with. Get it done.

  13. Chris S
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    The only remaining argument in favour of building HS2 is a political one : to fulfil the Conservative Governments commitment to the North following the election result. There is no credible economic case to spend a further £100bn on this project.

    Yet the political argument is easily countered : The Government should simply commit to spending the same £100bn on transport iinfrastructure projects, 75% of which should primarily be designed to benefit the North of England. It will be necessary to pass legislation to fast track the planning process otherwise we will see nothing happening for a decade of more. By the time of the next election it will be necessary to see excavators working the ground all over the Midlands and the North.

    They could make a start tomorrow by converting the so-called Smart Motorway inner lanes back into safe, hard shoulders.

    At the same time, Boris should fulfill his personal commitment to cancel the ludicrously expensive third runway at Heathrow. It is obvious that the decision should always have been to build at least one, possibly two new runways at Gatwick, as long as they also improve that airport’s rail connectivity with the South and the North, without the need for passengers to go into the capital first. While they are at it, expansion of Leeds or Manchester airports would be an astute move.

    • NickC
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Chris S, Sounds like a good plan. I don’t know anyone in the Midlands or the North who thinks that HS2 is worth having.

      • glen cullen
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink


  14. Shirley
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    As a northener, I believe HS2 will bring little benefit to the north for the costs involved. We would benefit far more if they used the money to bring the existing rail system up to acceptable standards. It would benefit far more people than HS2.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink


    • glen cullen
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      fully agree

  15. Donna
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    There is no justification in going ahead with HS2. It is a massive white elephant which will be of no benefit to the vast majority of the country and won’t even deliver improved rail services for our northern cities.
    It should be scrapped and the money used to improve regional inter-city rail services in the north and smaller schemes across the other neglected regions.
    I live in the West Country. The mainline from Waterloo to Exeter has several stretches of single track when you get past Salisbury. You can wait for up to 20 minutes between Salisbury and the next station, Tisbury, whilst a train coming in the opposite direction clears the line. It would cost a fraction of the HS2 £106 billion to make it dual-track for the entire length.
    HS2 is a vote loser.

    • NickC
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Donna, Good plan. Scrap HS2 and build/extend regional railways, undergrounds, and by-pass road bottlenecks with by-passes and links.

    • glen cullen
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      can’t understand why MPs are even considering keeping it

  16. cynic
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    HS2 will be a test case as to whether this Government is committed to spending money wisely and improving the infrastructure in the way that most people want.
    The Government are already wasting far too many resources on Green virtue signalling. We do not need more wasteful spending.

    • glen cullen
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      you mean like funding the ‘climate change’ citizens assembly

  17. jerry
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Cancel HS2? Yes!

    There has never been a proper business case for HS2, unlike HS1, it is pure vanity – the ‘problems’ it is meant to solve can be solved far cheaper, if they are true problems at all.

    • Mark
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      I think HS1 cost £6.8bn and was sold for just £2.1bn. That hardly speaks of a proper business case.

  18. The Prangwizard
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    As the cost has grown the more I now oppose it, although I was initially in favour.

    Part of the estimated cost increase is no doubt from appeasement of environmentalists who oppose all progress. I’d be interested to know how much these concessions have cost and delayed the scheme. All the crying about ‘ancient hedgerows and woodlands’ is ridiculously overblown and given unreasonable credence.

    We will never get anything done at a reasonable cost if we as a nation give in to the demands of every man and his mad dog, as we do now. And there’s no thanks for it.

    • NickC
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Prangwizard, Or as the French say: “Don’t consult the frogs when you want to drain the pond!” However, sensible environmental consultation is beneficial. It takes skill and application to tell the difference. There is an example here where locals warned the council and housebuilders that a field always flooded – they ignored us – the houses now get regularly flooded.

  19. Lifelogic
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    So Prince Charles incurred 16,000 air miles in 11 days it seem (in helicopters, private jets etc.) This around when he met Greta to lecture us all (just arriving in an electric car for the last few miles). Is he A. a grade one (do as I say not as I do) hypocrite or B. does he suffer from schizophrenia on him religion? Does he think this will go down well with his future subjects who perhaps fly to Spain once a year?

    Much talk of Ken Clarke being elevated to the Lords. This (nor Bercow) should never ever happen. Voting for (or helping enable) the Benn act was an act of pure and utter treachery. All of these people should be blackballed for ever and deserve complete and utter contempt. They have cost the county a fortune in their sick attempts to kill UK democracy.

    • rose
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      You are quite right about the Benn Burt directive. It is extraordinary that a man of Clarke’s standing and past ability should have had anything to do with it, but the EU mania caught him young, and in old age seemed to drive all his actions. In youth and middle age he was taken up with other things.

  20. Richard1
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Of course it should be cancelled. Even it’s proponents like lord Adonis can only come up with justifications based on gesture politics – we need to be seen to be doing infrastructure, linking the country together, and other such banal platitudes. For anyone, a family, a business, a government, there is a distinction been good investment and bad investment. If there isn’t a clear investment case based on the incremental cost today of £100bn it must be cancelled.

    What is concerning with our system is the way these clearly bad decisions get baked in irrespective of the strength of the arguments against them, presumably due to all the behind the scenes lobbying. It’s the same with Huawei where it would clearly be madness to stick two fingers up to our allies, especially the US, and facilitate Chinese spying, snooping and industrial espionage by letting the Chinese govt (in effect) build and control our 5G network.

    These are both totemic decisions. Boris needs to reject the civil service pressure and do what’s right for the country. Cancel the HS2 fiasco and say thanks but no thanks to huawei.

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      The US has no allies,only vassals;that much should be clear to everyone.

      The reason the US is so peeved about Huawei 5G,as I mentioned here months ago,is not just that it has no alternative to offer but that,with widespread installation of Huawei infrastructure(I believe c60 states have already signed up,covering most of the Eurasian landmass),it is the USA that will not be able to snoop and spy due to the advanced level of encryption.

      Same reason why Russian apps like Telegram are so popular.

      • Richard1
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        And how would the USA be able to snoop and spy on the UK in your absurd imaginings if eg the Swedish and Finnish companies Ericsson and Nokia were to build the network?

  21. Original Richard
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    HS2 is environmentally unfriendly, noisy and very fuel inefficient and so expensive that only the wealthy and those travelling at the expense of the taxpayer will be able to afford it.

    It doesn’t even go from city centre to city centre.

    To not completely waste the £7bn already spent on the project it should be converted to a new “normal” speed broad gauge track (such as Brunel’s 7ft ¼”) to provide the cheap and high capacity transport needed.

    Using the aircraft analogy, we need efficient wide bodied jets and not Concordes.

    Even better still would be to scrap the 19th century technology of metal wheels on a metal track which is expensive to maintain and go to rubber wheels on a tarmac track. Much cheaper and more flexible.

    For all options the vehicles should be driverless.

    • jerry
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      @Original Richard; What a load of anti railway tripe! That said, I will reply to your more sensible comment…

      “it should be converted to a new “normal” speed broad gauge track (such as Brunel’s 7ft ¼”) to provide the cheap and high capacity transport needed.”

      We do not need a TOTAL white elephant thanks … on the other hand perhaps you mean loading gauge, such as the European Berne gauge, not Brunel’s 7ft ¼ track gauge?!…

  22. Pat
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I have heard it suggested that HS2 is needed as a concrete demonstration of the Government’s intention to benefit the north of England.
    Firstly Birmingham may be north of London, but it’s way South of Manchester which is way south of Newcastle, so HS2 is in the wrong place to benefit the North.
    Secondly, anyone who thinks it will be complete in five years is dreaming.
    Use the money for road/rail improvements north of Birmingham if infrastructure it must be- though given all the planning hoops don’t expect much to be finished in five years.
    Or just raise the tax free allowance , include NI in that, and the poorest working people will disproportionately benefit. Since the poorest working people are disproportionately north of Birmingham this will disproportionately help the north and have immediate effect.

  23. Alan Jutson
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Seems to me like HS2 has been a real gravy train for some of those who are working on this project.

    Very High speed rail is useless in any Country that does not have to cover great distances to travel between stations/locations.

    London – Birmingham-Manchester-Leeds is simply too shorter distance to make any significant improvement in time taken for the massive cost involved.

    If it is a capacity problem, then I will be open to persuasion after all other ideas have been considered, better signals, longer trains, new platform layouts, double decker carriages, upgrading of cross country routes, etc.

    Better to concentrate on more comfort, more reliability of timetable, Customer service with WiFi Connection, and decent refreshment and toilet facilities on existing services I would have thought.

    HS2 was always going to cost upwards of £100 billion, and I said so at the time, shame so many ordinary people and businesses which have been in the way, have been screwed over compensation, which in many cases still has to be paid.

    Why is it all the costings on all government programmes is always so badly wrong ?

  24. Pominoz
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Sir John,

    Here in Australia, I haven’t a clue.

    However, every comment I hear from my contacts in England tell me that it is an absolute waste of money. Your comments today seem to confirm that fact. A confident Government is able to say, without demur, that decisions taken in the past by others may well be wrong. Do not waste even more money on a vanity project which clearly is neither wanted by the public nor justified by impartial adjudicators. Cancel. Move on and spend the money more wisely. It will serve the Boris Government well in the end.

    • Richard1
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Allow me to put it in local terms for you: we are about to spend a sum equivalent to 10% of the GDP of Australia to build a railway going about 1/4 the distance from Sydney to Melbourne but which will enable passengers to save 1/2 hour versus the line on that route which already exists. I suppose this wouldn’t get more than 5 mins debate in Australia!

      • Pominoz
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:44 pm | Permalink


        “I suppose this wouldn’t get more than 5 mins debate in Australia”

        Depends on who is in power. This country spent $43billion on the ineffective National Broadband Network simply because a past (inept) prime minister decided.

        I think Lifelogic has made a very good case against the scheme based on extended journeys at either end to connect with the ‘fast’ non-stop link. Overall time saving for most – absolutely zilch.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 28, 2020 at 4:14 am | Permalink

          Indeed plus you can work on the train anyway if time is really that vital for you.

  25. Newmania
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I did so because the business case for it was very weak

    Ha if you have ever cared about that. It is the explicit Policy of this government to direct my money to politically advantageous locations for which there is no economic justification at a time when the public purse is drained by Brexit
    Even the chancellor now admits he intends to hurt business which will, of course, hurt jobs revenues and people . Of course this stupid white elephant should be cancelled but think also of why we have it .
    We have it because Brexit was a lie .It was sold to one set of dupes as an escape from social democratic meddling into the free market. It was sold to many more as a protest against “globalisation” promising of ‘more’ political meddling in the ,market
    It was promised to both there would be more money to spend
    Lie lie lie and the result ? – HS2 a political slush fund we cannot afford . I look forward to seeing opened by some fat buffoon in a big hat festooned with bananas

    • NickC
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Newmania, Remain lied on an industrial scale – from c£10 of benefits for each £1 to the EU; to general economic doom if we voted to Leave. Given the vast majority of the planet is not in the EU, or anything like the EU, nor wants to be, your Remain propaganda is not only false, it is fraudulent. The EU is our enemy. Let us hope your vindictive, short-sighted, parochial, corrupt EU collapses. And the sooner the better.

    • Richard1
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      The origin of HS2 was the vision of a pan-european high speed network. We have EU membership to thank for it.

  26. oldwulf
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    If the obscene amount of money is truly available then there are far, far better ways of spending it than HS2.

    We should cut our losses and cancel HS2 now.

  27. George Brooks
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    The islands of the UK are too small and too crowded for a ‘bullet train’ or TGV and we need to spend the HS2 money improving and adding to the tracks that we already have and putting most of it towards connecting the cities of the North to each other as well as to the South.

    At one stage London had 18 mainline stations which have been reduced to around 12. Manchester and Liverpool have 4 each and all the other cities only one. As you quite rightly state Sir John a huge amount of HS2 money will be spent getting this train in and out of London and after that all we get is journey time reduced by 15 or may be 20 minutes. What a huge waste of money.

    Give the northern cities and towns the service they need and should have by up-grading and adding to the existing track with up to date rolling stock which will facilitate both passengers and freight services. It will reduce many more truck and car journeys than HS2 will ever do.

    This is MPs pandering to a small audience once again

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      I wondered which four stations counted as main rail stations in Manchester and I read one was Deansgate! 2 platforms not even sure where to and from.

      I believe that Manchester is poorly served by rail connections. Manchester Airport in particular. For example, main Cities like Chester and Crewe to the airport take longer than car journeys and only have sporadic time-tables e.g. miss the one train that takes 47 mins from Crewe (40 mins by car) and the next journeys range from 1 hour 7 mins to 1 hr 20 mins. From Chester 43 mins by car takes 1 hour 35 by train and Primary towns such as Northwich take 1 hour 30 when a car journey is 30 minutes. Our local town only has one train per hour to Crewe, miss it and you miss your connections it is frequently late and now they’re adding to this insult by charging those commuters who regularly let the train take the strain high all-day parking charges without putting local fast bus services on – it’s just unbelievable.

  28. Frank
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Last I heard, it was supposed to cost £36 billion, it’s now going to cost £108 billion. Scrap it.
    Why do government contracts always cost more when they’re finished than when they started?
    Here’s an idea: ask the builder how much it will cost, when he says £36 billion tell him to go away and build it and the government will pay £36 billion when it’s completed. If it really can be built for £36 billion, the builder will easily be able to raise the finance. If it can’t he won’t. Either way, the taxpayer won’t be on the hook for an extra £200 billion* or so.

    * Do you really think £108 billion is the final figure? If so, I have a bridge to sell you.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      this is no final figure – another guess from a concerned critic. It could easily soar still further, we are years away from getting God knows how many train ‘sets’ actually on the tracks working. It will be stopped above ground for every Gt Crested Newts found, rare bats in trees, badger sets and environmental protection protesters.

  29. Steve Reay
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Cancel it. We dont need a high speed train in small country

    • L Jones
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      In a nutshell, Mr Reay.

  30. glen cullen
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Cancelling HS2 makes business common sense

    And there is an anger growing in the country not just about political white elephants but governments lack and will to recognise a white elephant and reverse its policy

  31. William Long
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    It has alwys seemed to me that the real rationale for HS2 was to make it easier for the North to get to London rather than the other way round, but even that never made sense because it is quite easy to travel between North and South already, by rail, road and air and the savings in time and capacity were only ever going to be marginal. What is really lacking are good lateral connections between many areas of the North of Engalnd, and dare I say it, being a resident of Devon, a rail connection between the far South West and the rest of the UK that is not at the mercy of the weather and the tides. The North/South divide is not the only gap in our country. It is on these things that the money would be much better spent, rather than the Osbourne vanity project that is HS2.

  32. Bob
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    In China they have Ghost Cities and we have Gordon Brown’s HS2, another white elephant like Concorde. The enormous cost will be met by taxpayers and it will be used by the people that can afford the expensive fares. In years to come the govt will sell into private hands at a knock down price just like the other Labour projects the Dome and the Olympic Stadium.

    A huge waste of taxpayers money while the govt penny pinch with Smart (sic) Motorways with the resultant cost to safety. The extra lane doesn’t make traffic flow any faster it just spreads it out. The problems are the choke points at junctions where the volume of vehicles cannot exit the motorways quickly enough which causes congestion. Any plumber would be able to explain this simple principle if those in power would only listen.

  33. James Bertram
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Sir John, at £105 Billion that is £1750 for every man, woman and child. To put that into context the Government budget towards 40 new hospitals was about £6.5 Billion. Agriculture subsidies will get about £3 Billion.
    HS2 is an insane waste of money. Imagine what good could be done if this money was spent sensibly. [And likewise, the 39 Billion being given ex-gratia to the EU on signing the wretched WA, with no legal requirement to pay the sum, and with us getting nothing back in return].
    Why are politicians so profligate with other’s hard-earned?
    Shameful – once again.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Why are politicians (and bureaucrats) so profligate with other’s hard-earned? Because it is not their money so they do not give a d***.

      Not only this but often some are being “employed” as “consultants” by lobby groups and vested interests who profit from the lunacy. We see this in the crony renewable industry to a huge degree.

    • NickC
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      James B, Well said.

  34. NigelE
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    If you improve connections between London and Birmingham, this will nearly mean that even more people will find commuting to London attractive and practicable, resulting in yet more focus on the capital.

    Improve links to and between Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds etc first if you really want to improve Northern transport links.

    Slightly off topic: something needs to be done about so-called Smart Motorways to prevent deaths on the former hard shoulders.

  35. Trainer
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The media do not seem to interview any Joe Publics, just political people in the North who never said anything north until there was a political gravy-train job called “North”. They don’t literally make people sick because they do not listen to them or watch them. In many cases, don’t know who they are, what they are, and what on earth they do. Well what? What could they possibly do that wasn’t done before? Think, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the trains ran on time!” What a b. revelation! Since when do trains ever run on time?

  36. kzb
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The money should be spent on tube systems for northern cities. The tube is a big reason why the London economy is so much more successful than other UK cities.
    The tram systems take up above ground road space needed for business to operate. Put them underground like in London, and extend them.

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Especially to connect important institutions such as the airports, the main hospitals like Christies, the Arena, main sports grounds taking road traffic underground would have a massive impact and encourage people to use public transport.

  37. graham1946
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    If current rail fares are anything to go by, the service will only be available for the rich, plus
    99 percent of people in the land will get no benefit from it but all will pay.
    With London house prices, this will just move the wealthy commuter belt north and make Birmingham and surrounding areas another dormitory for London and push prices of housing in the Midlands up. How is that supposed to help the North? Don’t rush into stuff just to keep the PM’s promise about the North but just do things well instead of for political expediency. What will it do for other areas like the West? It needs scrapping and put down to experience in not letting people like Lord Adonis, who was never elected for anything run things. His judgement on the EU was also iffy.

    • Martin R
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      It won’t be available only to the rich because the rest of us will be forced to subsidise it regardless of the fact that the vast majority of the population will never even go anywhere near it or have any requirement to travel on it. Spain is well on the way to building more than 2,000 miles of high speed rail. It’s all woefully under used and loss making and always will be. And thanks to the EU, muggins helped to pay for it. HS2 is even more insane than Spain’s HS. It is many times more expensive per mile and EU taxpayers won’t be paying a cent for it although it is there for their benefit under the EU TEN-T high speed railway network plan.

  38. percy openshaw
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    For heaven’s sake, Sir John, rally the Tory party in parliament to your point of view. The government could be set to make a disabling blunder which will hobble its entire term in office. 106 billion pounds is no small sum and will conduce to added borrowing, higher taxes or painful cuts. Why can’t the administration see this? Many of us believe that it this project is an overhang from the pro-EU days of Cameron and Osborne; let it follow them into retirement.

  39. Alan Joyce
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Redwood,

    I guess a decision has been made and the government has begun the public softening-up process.

    Last week we had Baroness Vere of Norbiton, a transport minister in the Lords, who criticised big infrastructure naysayers. Yesterday, Cabinet minister Stephen Barclay said it was his gut feeling that HS2 should (or would?) go ahead as the project is a ‘key part’ of the government’s commitment to the north.

    Who else will be wheeled out so as to prepare the ground for this most white elephantine of projects? Get ready for even higher predicted final costs so that when the project is finally approved, the government can say it will cost less than we thought and is a snip at only £106,000,ooo,000. Yes, just a hundred and six thousand million pounds!

    And all you lucky Northern taxpayers, get your tickets ordered now as it will be coming to a station not so near you – by 2040.

    I think I will wait until personal electric flying cars become the prevalent mode of travel.

    • Martin R
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      I have had high hopes for Stephen Barclay in the past. Not any more. The case for cancelling HS2 is so utterly overwhelming (and always has been) that one has to suspect the motives of any apparently sane individual who sticks up for it. In this case it has obviously been made clear to Stephen that he has no future in Tory politics unless he wises up tout de suite and clambers aboard the HS2 bandwagon now. Or should I say the HS2 gravy train?

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 28, 2020 at 4:20 am | Permalink

        Certainly looks like this. Another big mistake by this new Government.

    • ian terry
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Alan Joyce

      Flying pigs more like it!!

  40. ukretired123
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Let’s face it HS2 is for First Class passengers given the eye watering costs.
    Accountants will tell you when projects go wrong expect even more costs.
    It would be cheaper to ferry these passengers by helicopter!

    The lessons from Rolls Royce going bust have never been heeded.
    If you want to convince the North and Midlands voters be brave and listen to their transportation needs instead.

    It could have taken the old LNER lines with fewer obstacles to divert.
    The USA businesses I knew never just throw money at a problem like UK politicians do.
    They had strict hard nosed rules and fiscal discipline instead despite their wealth.
    It does not hold benefits only to a small powerful lobby group.
    Boris must be brave and do the right thing!

  41. MickN
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink


  42. richard verney
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The case for HS2 has been rendered redundant due to the internet, and advances in modern mobile communications. Pardon the pun, but the train ahs already left the station on this given the advances in technology. Money would be better spent on upgrading technology rather than creating a new train network.

    For the business user, time is money. Wasted time on a journey costs money, but if time is not wasted, and if the business user can usefully employ the time taken travelling, doing business work, then there is no significant loss to the business user.

    With modern communications and high speed broadband connections, provided that the business user can get a seat and preferably a table, the business user can use the train as if it were the office. In this manner the time spent on the train is in effect the same as time spent in the office, such that it does not matter whether the journey takes 2 hours or 1.5 hours.

    The business user can (with proper high speed broadband connection) attend to emails, speak to clients, liase with and/or instruct experts, update managenent and/or clients on the meting etc. as if the business user was in the office, not on the train.

    Thus in today’s age what is importnat is good quality broadband connection and preferably a seat with a table, and not the time spent travelling. The saving of 15 or 30 minutes or even an hour on journey time is inconsequential, and in any event it will often be offset by the impact of congestion and delays in onward travel from the station to the meeting point, or back again, in the crowded city environment and infrastructure.

    We should not throw good money after bad. If tax payer money is to used, it would be better to spend this money to upgrade technology and to invest directly in industry. Just imagine what could be achieved with a £100 billion invested in industry, new tech start ups, regeneration of the fishing fleet and fishing ports, etc. The return to the tax payer would be far more if that approach was adopted rather than to waste it on a train service where the ticket price will be prohibitively high (presumably 3 times that originally estimated) and where the saving of time is not substantial given modern mobile communication.

    Further, in the future there will be more video conferencing and less face to face meetings, especially if the Government seeks to regulate business with Green agendas. The CO2 emissions incidental to HS2 usage will be very high, and that in itself may add to the cost for businesses in using that service. Has the Government even considered the CO2 impacts of the construction and use of HS2?

    In conclussion, it is a thoroughly bad idea, and should be scrapped, before even further monies are wasted.

  43. Martin in Cardiff
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    The project will make no significant material difference to all but a small section of the people.

    The private sector seem to be having a laugh at the expense of team PAYE yet again too*.

    Yes, cancel it, I think.

    And bear in mind the fifty-five kilometre road bridge that the Chinese have built for one tenth of the projected costs, and how they managed that.

    * Foot-and-mouth clean up in the Netherlands, direct labour, six hundred pound per farm. In the UK, private contractors, one hundred thousand pounds per farm.

  44. Ian Wragg
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Yes. Yes. Yes. 19th century technology tarted up. Obsolete already
    Sort out social care instead for a fraction of the cost. .

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Some one else has noticed, then a gain if you are not on a Parliamentary ego trip and you forgot to put your blind fold on and don’t have developer friends to cultivate.

      Still it only the taxpayer that pays with no gain to the Country

  45. Robert Valence
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Nigel Farage has experience of the TGV in France.
    Some of its performance is magnificent – e.g. Marseilles to Paris 3hrs instead of 6 hrs originally; HS2’s 20 mins shaved off 2hr 9m is just not comparable.

    And, in addition to your point that the major work over the next few years would be in London; the experience in France is that, rather than spreading the benefits to the outlying cities, business-men are simply travelling to Paris for work – rather than the other way round.

    Scrap HS2 now before any more money is wasted – and invest in northern links – e.g. Man-Leeds, Sheffield, York etc.[That also rewards those northern Labour voters who were persuaded to support Boris

    • rose
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      And reopen the Portishead line to Bristol. It is already there, just waiting. All this talk of the North is fine, but don’t forget the West Country and Wales. Boris owes them too.

    • acorn
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      The French have a lot of data on the affects of TGV on travellers’ behaviour, particularly the south east line out of Paris. It appears that Paris service based companies made a lot more day trips south – no overnight hotel stays required – than the other way around from Lyon. It made little difference to industrial companies. Hence, HS2 could be assumed to be a bigger advantage to London based professional service companies than Birmingham’s.

      Regardless of that, the $320 million per km for stage one, is silly compared to the EU historic average of $35 million per km and China at $24 million. Even California reckons it can build its version for $60 million per km So that’s a no then.

  46. Leslie Singleton
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Dear Sir John–Junk HS2 (or at least join it to HS1) and build our own 5G. Why don’t we already have our own? Just out of curiosity what is the EU doing?

  47. a-tracy
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Whoever made the decision not to award Virgin the West Coast Mainline contract and give it to the new rubbish supplier wants to be forced to travel this route regularly and pay the £56 second-class seat midday for a two-hour journey. Their prices are totally inconsistent, they overinflate prices on the day before booking, none of the old Virgin wifi services are now on-board on very long journeys, they haven’t even served drinks recently on two-hour journeys. The staff aren’t as polite and we have experienced delays.

    On another service a one hour journey from London to Lincoln yesterday became three hours! and there is no alternative and our environmentalists want more of this and less personal control over your travel!

    HS2 should always have been started from Birmingham – North if it was to genuinely help the North but I suspect it is more to expand the commutable distance from London to Birmingham and the roads can’t take anymore strain around Birmingham, if tunnels are required they should be tunnelling under Birmingham! How come only London can be tunnelled sod the rest of the Country?

    I read today that China is building a 1000 bed hospital in 6-10 days! Just what always takes us so long to do anything. What has actually gone wrong with Crossrail? What is causing the delay? Do the contractors have to discount because they’re taking longer than they said they would?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Just what takes us so long to do anything?

      Well the UK have lots of PPE, Law, Humanities, Arch and Anth, Greats and Gender studies graduates plus planning restrictions, parasitic bureaucrats, vested interests and other red tape endlessly getting in the way.

      Whereas in China they perhaps have about 70 times more STEP graduates for a population of only circa 20 times more. Probably a similar similar ratio of builders too.

      Despite all these lawyer types it still seems to take them 30+ years (still not) to get to the reality of the Hillsborough disaster. Doubless it will be similary for Grenfell.

      In the latter case all that was needed was someone sensible to say that thermally cladding the building was an expensive waste of money (and very dangerous if you used anything remotely flamible) and a senior fire officer who could actually think in real time and thus the people to try to get out at all costs as soon as they say the TV footage.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Worse still these PPE, gender studies, Geography & Law graduate are often actuallly in charge! When was the last time the energy department or transport department had a vaguely competent engineer as the Minister?

  48. Mark B
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Good afternoon.

    “Should government cancel HS2 ?”

    YES !

  49. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    If capacity is a genuine issue, build extra lines alongside the existing route.

    If not, spend the money or other parts of the network including but not exclusively, double decker trains for London.

  50. Leaver
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Again I think this ignores the political argument.

    HS2 is seen as an important vote of confidence to the North of England.

    If Boris is to keep his northern seats, he needs shovel-ready investment to show support. HS2 fits the bill perfectly. Cancelling it would potentially be a huge vote-loser.

    • Leaver
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Apologies. I’ll be more specific. I agree with what you are saying, Sir John. But these plans you propose are not shovel-ready and good to go.

      To keep the north happy, you need to propose projects that can begin today. I fear reports and proposals, however well-intentioned, will not fit the bill.

  51. gpmgroup
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me cancelling HS2 will save £100bn before overruns! £106bn v £3bn (£12bn – £9bn already spent)

    Some of £100bn could be spent on fibre broadband for the North. This will benefit every household and provide massive opportunity for people to do great things. Trying to make the North the most digitally included part of the country would be a massive step forward and inject a sense of pride and purpose.

    Also in the main people up here do not need to travel to London and for the very small numbers that do, the cost of any tickets and difficulties of getting to the any stations will likely put HS2 travel way beyond the reach of most of them. Therefore as others have said spending some of the £100bn improving the existing railways would provide far greater benefits.

    • Ian@Barkham
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      As you say fibre broadband is the future. This old fashioned technology being used as a vanity project for the few, makes no sense. It will be in the museum when/if it gets finished..

      Good broadband connections on the other hand instantly increases prosperity for all. Even in today’s world good broadband has replaced the need to travel

  52. Pud
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    With most topics (which party to vote for, EU membership etc.) I usually hear a range of views from friends and colleagues but I have yet to hear anyone say they are in favour of HS2. The consensus is HS2 will cost a vast amount for very little benefit. Many commuters also comment on aspects of their journey where a lack of spending results in recurring problems and suggest that the existing railways should be fixed first before building a new line is considered.

  53. Ian @Barkham
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    There is a lot wrong with HS2 from its planning to its rolling stock

    Opening up the North is not about London sucking in the North, but the north being able to get from simply one local community to another with ease. Along with ease of flow between conurbations. Perspective Yorkshire population wise is bigger than Scotland but has less say. HS2 in all its disguises doesn’t attempt to do that, it seeks to polarize the concept that London is everything and nothing and no body else matters.

    Going to from London to Darby via Birmingham, who thought that up?

    Using newly liveried old Hitachi railway stock doesn’t make for a modern railway. £100 + billion and the best that is suggested is 25year old technology in a modern world. How long after completion will it be before it dawns on someone that the railway because of the technology is outdated and not as efficient as it should be.

    Its ego dream by a political class that doesn’t live in the real World – hence the focus as always on London

  54. Mark
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    It seems clear that the economics of the project have been fudged and ignored. I think as long ago as when Justine Greening was in charge, the civil service calculation of the benefit-cost ratio was below the lowest standard for investment to proceed. Not only should the project be cancelled, but Dominic Cummings needs a team to look at how it was allowed to survive this long, to prevent similar follies.

    The money is far better spent on other projects that will improve commuting, distribution and connectivity in the North, and on sorting out the mess of “smart” motorways which seem to be not as smart as they were supposed to be. Not only do they fail to detect broken down vehicles and crashes or when the road is clear again promptly, but the over zealous speed cameras and frequent changes of speed limit encourage drivers to watch their speedos and not the traffic, causing crashes rather than preventing them.

  55. Tony Sharp
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Sir John,
    This is in fact a Grande Project of the EU and like all o fthese is about ‘integrating-centralising Europe’ and nothing practical for the ‘recipient nation’ it is located in.
    The so called ‘spending’ on it if hopefully canceled is not entirely lost as mch of it is consultancy which can be applied elsewhere and also land purchases which can be recouped. Nertheless the £8-£12 Bn figure so far expended at least allows us to ‘cut our losses’.
    The issue is really about how we finance improvements in Regional and Commuter lines every where, but HS2 actually had priority in expenditure over these and any marginal improvements were regarded only a s’feeder ancillary’ to HS2.
    Many more travellers would benefit in speed, comfort and efficiency if these improvements now replaced HS2.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Dear Tony–May be EU but still a good idea. Blindingly obvious HS2 should be joined to HS1. One almost wonders why the Chunnel was ever built. Think all those overnight freight trains. Manchester to Madrid, Milan, Marseilles. Have spur in to London from an M25 “terminus” if want London connexion.

      • Mark
        Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps you should look at the loss making dedicated freight Betuwelijn which runs from Rotterdam to the Ruhr and beyond. Another EU project of course. They certainly know how to waste money.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted January 28, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          Dear Mark–I am an ardent Leaver but trade is going to continue. I am also an FCA who has little faith in the meaningfullness of the “loss-making” you mention. What credit (literally) do you give in the relative P & L for the huge amount of freight removed from the overcrowded and pot-holed roads?

    • R.T.G.
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      @ Tony Sharp
      “The issue is really about how we finance improvements in Regional and Commuter lines everywhere, but HS2 actually had priority in expenditure over these…”

      If, after Brexit, HS2 is to be built and maintained within the rules of the Trans European Network – Transport (TEN-T), then, I understand, the rules state that operational costs have to be met to ensure full working ‘Interoperability’ is maintained 24/7 regardless of cost, and has first call at the expense of any necessary funding of regional networks.

  56. formula57
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    HS2’s huge cost is not matched by huge benefits: indeed benefits appear meagre.

    Instead of proceeding with the railway, rather hold a public enquiry into how so much money has been spent with so little result.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Benefits appear negative to me with the damage caused to all the businesses and people affected by the construction and the huge environmental damage. That even before the huge lost opportunity costs of using the money (and engineers) do something far more sensible instead.

  57. davies
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    One suggestion I heard was if you are serious that it will help the north then start in Glasgow and work south and link up the north east and north west, then down to Crewe, Birmingham, etc.

    Otherwise it will do no more than turn Birmingham into a commuter suburb of London and as you say affect the other lines which are not full to capacity.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      have you checked with Ms Sturgeon on her SNP willingness to connect Glasgow with England in a modern high speed way?

  58. bill brown
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Sir JR

    Please, explain to me why the mayors of both Birmingham , Leeds and Manchester support HS2 ?
    This is not just about the south east nor is it about no investments in the north as oppose to HS2, . It is about lines that were built under queen Victoria which no longer have the capacity to carry the traffic from London and beyond.

  59. Fred H
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    off topic.
    from Sunday Times.
    Andrea Leadsom (Business Secretary) is cutting weekly meetings with leading lobby groups to one a month, and broadening the invitation list. The CBI, British Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Make UK and Federation of Small Businesses had a weekly audience. The new invitees will comprise a further 5 groups.
    She says it previously ‘benefited a select few’, and ‘it was crucial that we do not unintentionally shrink the number of voices influencing our decisions’.
    What’s not to like?

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Andrea Leadsom should actually come out to the regions and see business spokespeople that aren’t from London, on their turf and experience public transport for herself.

  60. Iain Gill
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Ask how much for the following:

    Build the lines but dont bother electrification of them.

    Just use diesel 125 trains on the lines.

    Gives the added capacity we supposedly need, without the expense of all the overhead wires etc, and fancy expensive new trains.

    If not viable just bin it.

  61. Gordon Hetherington
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Should the government cancel HS2? Yes, the money would be better spent improving cross-country links.

  62. Elli Ron
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely right Sir Redwood.
    The current economic case is justified by increasing the number of trains to 18 per hour, in each direction.
    140,000 capacity in each direction, a train leaving North every 3.3 minutes (same going South).
    Energy usage by HS2 is at least 10 (yes 10) times that of a 125 train doing the same journey, we are all asked to do our bit towards LESS energy use.
    If anyone is curious about this then here are the reasons: Kinetic energy goes by the square of velocity, double the speed quadruple the energy. The same is for form resistance which also depends on speed squared. The rest comes from the route not being absolutely streaght line, changing elevation, changing direction, tunnels all increase energy expenditure.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 27, 2020 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Your maths gone haywire. If it is true the capacity claim of 1,000 per train leaving at 4 minute intervals = 14,000 to 18,000 travelling each direction per hour.

  63. Christine
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I say let’s cancel HS2. It always was and always will be a white elephant. And heaven knows how many lives it has blighted already.
    Slightly off topic, anyone else notice who is the Huawei Board?
    Former BP boss Lord Browne, ennobled by Tony Blair and enabled by David Cameron; Sir Andrew Cahn, a senior civil servant who worked closely with Neil Kinnock at the European Commission; and John Suffolk, once the civil service information officer. The late Dame Helen Alexander, a former boss of the pro-EU Confederation of British Industry, was also a director. Or consider David Cameron, now officially recognised as an interlocutor between the British and Chinese governments.

    So now we know why the PM has agreed to go with Huawei. What a disaster for this country primarily from the security point of view but also from this ever closer tie to a totalitarian regime. Unbelievable!

    • DavidJ
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 12:00 am | Permalink

      Indeed, the Chinese are only interested in a money and the theft of technology. It has always been so; why expect them to change now?

  64. NickC
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Should the government cancel HS2?


  65. Frances Cotton
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I would like to add my voice to the others that HS2 should be cancelled and the money spent on improving northern railways that are affordable to more people. HS2 would be too expensive to run and use

  66. Dave Andrews
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    If there’s money to spend on infrastructure, would it not be better spent on the roads? Rebuild them from the foundations rather than just fill potholes every now and then. About time we carried on from where the Romans left off.

  67. Bernard from Bucks
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Yes. But as I am affected by the dam thing, I guess I don;t get a voice.

  68. Edwardm
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The cost for HS2 is so enormous that it is ridiculous to even have a discussion on it – cancellation should be automatic.
    There is a very great responsibility that such vast projected sums of money must be spent effectively and not on vanity projects – and HS2 is a most ineffective and irresponsible use of such money, at the cost of lost alternative opportunities and the negative effect on our economy.

    What we do need is a serious enquiry about why and how major infrastructure projects in the UK cost far more than in other countries. Where does all the money go?
    For one thing, consultants (and so-called consultants) are paid vastly too much.
    HS2 has already cost a lot with little to show.

    In the case of rail transportation, the build and maintenance costs escalate rapidly with increased top speed (up to the forth power). By limiting the top speed to say 140mph instead of 200mph (and re-using part of the GMCL), the costs would be much lower, yet the journey time not much longer over the London to Birmingham distance.

    O/T Huawei must not be given any involvement with our communication infrastructure – it will give China a ready-made platform to eavesdrop in ways that cannot be detected, and it would be a self inflicted security hole. It is a potential security problem that cannot be managed flawlessly as some suggest. Anyway, why go to the effort of managing it when the whole problem can be avoided.

  69. Fred H
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    The issue that always defeats me is the claim of between 14 and 18 trains per hour in each direction. That implies each train runs at 4 minute intervals or less in rush hour times! The claim is that the train rolling stock can carry 1,000 people. Imagine Euston or Birmingham designed to load those people and luggage (pushchairs?) each 4 minutes. You would have to organise several platforms and entry/exit points x minutes ahead to enable each train to be loaded, readied and leaving at that rate. I suggest 2 being readied will not be managed. So if people need to start getting on the third – that is 8 minutes to be added to journey time assuming that the train arrived from Birmingham is on time, and emptied! Up to 1,000 people off and platform cleared in say 2 minutes leaves 6 minutes to be reloaded. That suggests to me that 4 platforms minimum (12 minutes added) will be required to deal with emptying and readying for reloading. What intransit areas will be necessary to accommodate all those thousands?
    I can’t wait to see the organisation required to meet that lofty claim.

  70. glen cullen
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Sir John

    Maybe you could ask the PM to review all the comments on this blog

    And all the other MPs as well

  71. Yossarion
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Wrong question, should HS2 ever have been considered in a Small land mass where the major cities are only a few hundred miles apart. HS2 By Passes to many English Towns that there population will now have to drive miles to get a direct train

  72. Saving money
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    For the sum of money spent something like hyperloop should be possible, otherwise just save the money as technology always gets always gets better tomorrow

  73. steve
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    In a nutshell – yes. Cancel it.

    Hornby would have done a better job.

  74. cornishstu
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Well I have to agree with the majority here, a complete waste of money the sooner the project is scrapped the better. It could be spent elsewhere to a greater benefit of the majority of the country as opposed to a few.

  75. alastair harris
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Yes please

  76. Jane
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I used to think HS2 was a good idea as it would be the start of the linking of big cities.

    Now I think we need to fix the poor infrastructure in the cities outside London first and feel the benefits of high spending locally.

    My change of view is because I believe that HS2 will drain more folk to the bright lights of London.

    Improving transport and all travel times locally is what is needed for most of the public in all cities.

    The Government must spend more outside London to spread wealth around the UK and noticeably so.

  77. DavidJ
    Posted January 27, 2020 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    We should remember that the plan for HS2 originated in the EU, where all sensible argument counts for nought in the pursuit of their centralised superstate. I suspect that its intent was more likely to assist rapid troop movements necessary to maintain control in that state.

    It should have been cancelled after the referendum vote before any more of our money was thrown at it. It is also 1970’s technology which is likely to be replaced well within its likely payback (if any) period.

  78. NickC
    Posted January 28, 2020 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Reasons not to vote Tory:
    31 Jan isn’t Brexit;

    Every one says you’ve been rolled over by the establishment. Not happened yet? We’ll see.

    Reply The voters did just vote in a Conservative government. We can think about GE voting in a few years time

    • NickC
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply: JR, true, people have just voted Tory. But they voted Tory on various assurances and assumptions, and many of those (some as I listed) are still in the balance. You went from 9% at the EU elections in May 2019 to winning the 2019 GE. It can reverse just as fast.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 28, 2020 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      reply to reply… Sir John, if Tory higher command do not take to heart the promises made, and the sentiments expressed all over the media, and turn their back on us voters the reaction will be extreme, putting Corbyn’s fate in the shade. As some on here said prior to voting, millions may abandon Conservatives for good, and the younger voters will think what a waste of time that was!

  79. Diane
    Posted January 28, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I have to echo another commenter on here, I would like to believe that our leaders in government actually read comments such as posted on this excellent site & others because from what I observe there is far more information and highly intelligent reasoning and comment coming from ‘the people’ I would support smaller projects to improve people’s everyday lives in the regions & within a sensible time frame. If it goes ahead operational overruns are more than likely I would say. The HS2 currently projected costs, which no doubt will continue to increase, are unbelievable. What funds will be available to do anything more meaningful for our northern regions & voters. I think it is a vote loser and have always been of the opinion it is not the right project for this country, inspired no doubt in part by the EU’s aim of the ‘joining up’ of Europe. Fred H’s comments above are interesting & an insight on the likely operational difficulties in fulfilling what we are told it is meant to do.

  80. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted January 29, 2020 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    It is with wry amusement that I looked up a presentation by Mark Weiner of HS2 Ltd to the Transport Economists Group on 26 January 2011. At that time the figures for the “Transport User” Business Case were (£bn 2009 present value):

    User benefits 28.7
    Wider Economic Impacts (WEIs) 3.6
    Total (PVB) 32.3
    Cost 25.5
    Revenue – 15.0
    Indirect tax 1.5
    Total (PVC) 11.9
    BCR excluding WEIs 2.4
    BCR including WEIs 2.7

    You can add about 30% to these numbers for inflation in order to obtain figures in 2019 prices. Revenue minus indirect tax gains are legitimate only if they are gains summed across all modes of transport. If they are HS2 gains at the expense of other transport modes they are not legitimate. If they are all railway gains at the expense of other transport modes they are not legitimate.

    All in all, the cost estimate of 2011 was £25.5 bn plus 30% = £34 bn in 2019 prices. The current (unofficial) cost estimate in £106 bn, a threefold increase.

    I prefer to exclude WEIs from the benefits; they are uncertain. So up dating the user benefits to 2019 prices, we get £28.7 bn plus 30% = £37 bn.

    So the benefit to cost ratio (BCR) has come crashing down to about 0.35, with a BCR of 1 needed to break even.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 30, 2020 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Indeed and that is optimistic. What about all the damage done to all the homes and businesses blighted by all the construction work needed and all the compulsory purchase orders and relocation costs?

  81. Richard416
    Posted January 29, 2020 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Should the government cancel HS2?


  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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