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Conservative Revolution

Britain and the world’s oldest conservative think tank

Conservative Revolution

Britain and the world’s oldest conservative think tank

The Bow Group Calls for HS2 to be Scrapped

Jan 30, 2020 | Articles, Publications

The Bow Group Calls for HS2 to be Scrapped

Key Points

  • The Bow Group proposed the HS2 route previously adopted by the Conservative Party in 2010, but since then costs have more than doubled and the benefits have been scaled back.
  • The costs are currently projected to exceed £100 billion, up from an initial projection of £56 billion.
  • The Bow Group route included a national “high speed network” benefitting London’s airport hub, connecting to HS1, and eventually extending to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The current route does not offer the same breadth of connections.
  • The reduction in connections was billed as a cost saving measure, however whilst the connections were dropped the cost rose significantly. 
  • The Conservatives initially proposed to begin construction of HS2 in 2015, progress has however been slow and completion of the currently planned full project is likely to exceed even the 2033 target date.
  • Japan introduced high-speed rail in 1959, the UK’s first high speed rail (HS1) was completed in 2003.
  • Even accounting for inflation High Speed 1 (HS1) cost a fraction of the current HS2 budget at £5.7 billion.
  • By 2033 current high speed rail technology is likely to be obsolete.
  • We argue that the current high speed route offers benefits to too few citizens at too great a cost.
  • Investment in genuinely reversing the “Beeching Cuts”, as the Bow Group called for in 2015, offers potential benefit for every area of the country.
  • The government’s proposed investment of £500 million to reverse the “Beeching Cuts” will have almost no effect.  
  • The UK national debt and debt to GDP ratio remains among the highest of world leading economies, the government needs to retain fiscal discipline on all expenditure.
  • The Bow Group propose cancelling HS2 and re-investing the initial £56 billion budget into expanding and refitting the current rail network, as well as improving the UK’s air transport infrastructure.  

The Bow Group’s proposed HS2 route (2010)

“The Bow Group’s vision for HS2 was one that offerred benefit to every region of the UK, was cost-effective and deliverable within a decade. The current HS2 project is almost unrecognisable from that vision.

If HS2 cannot swiftly offer a comprehensive UK high speed network, incorporating HS1 and our Heathrow air hub, for the initially proposed budget then it cannot be justified.

With the current HS2 route only benefiting a small proportion of the country at great projected cost, it will produce an imbalanced have and have nots distribution of public transport investment. With those outside the small number of cities benefitting paying a huge chunk of their taxes for no discernable improvement in transport service.  

If the government is serious about meeting its own environmental & infrastructure targets, it needs to be able to provide the vast majority of British citizens with cheap and comprehensive public transport, not just those who live in our major cities. 

The current proposal to spend £500 million on reversing the Beeching cuts will make almost no difference, but genuinely investing in this project would have the potential to open railway stations within ten minutes of almost every citizen.

Reviving existing railway lines has the ability to improve lives for people across the whole country, and rather than connecting major cities that already have good transit links, bring effective public transport to areas that have been cut off from the transport grid for decades.

If HS2 ltd cannot deliver what they initially proposed, without spiralling costs and delays, that money is better spent expanding and refitting our current rail network and investing in cheaper environmentally friendly air transit.”
Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman, The Bow Group