Government says HS2 could add £15bn to the economy per year

Posted on 12 Sep 2013 by Tim Brown

Sceptics not convinced

A new report by KPMG and commissioned by HS2 Ltd, says the HS2 rail project could boost the UK economy by £15bn a year.

High Speed Two will link London to Birmingham and the North with 225mph trains

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin presented the findings at the Institute of Civil Engineers yesterday as the government looked to strengthen the case for the new rail line.

The report, from accountants KPMG, says that regions outside London will be the biggest beneficiaries of the new service but the economic boost will not be felt until 2037, it says.

Mr McLoughlin said HS2 was necessary because the “clogged arteries” of the nation’s transport system needed a “heart bypass”.

But Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, told the BBC that any private investor would consider the project a “colossal waste of money”.

Mr McLoughlin argued that the benefits of HS2 were not simply faster journey times and new jobs, but up to 500,000 fewer lorry journeys a day on the country’s roads, according to a separate report.

“High Speed Two will make Liverpool stronger. Manchester stronger. Leeds stronger. Britain stronger”, he said. “A £15bn annual boost to the economy. With the North and Midlands gaining at least double the benefit of the south.”

Wednesday’s report calculates the benefits of the project in a different way from previous efforts.

Time saved is a less important part of the calculation. Instead, the report includes the benefits of extra seats, which means passengers will be able to work while travelling. It also takes into account the reduction in congestion elsewhere on the network.

Hilary Wharf, director of campaign group HS2 Action Alliance, criticised the HS2 plans earlier this week saying the argument for strategic case for the line was made using “out-of-date information and wrong assumptions” that did not reflect real life.

“How much longer do they think the tax payer will listen to their protestations that this £50bn white elephant is vital to the future of the UK’s economy?” she said.