Alistair Darling attacks HS2 for ‘draining the railways of money’

10:40 23 August 2013

Former Labour chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling has strongly attacked the HS2 high-speed rail project. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Former Labour chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling has strongly attacked the HS2 high-speed rail project. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling has strongly attacked the HS2 high-speed rail project saying its economic benefits are ‘highly contentious’.

Mr Darling, who is also a former transport secretary, said HS2 ‘ran the risk of substantially draining the railways of money over the next 30 years’.

Saying political visions ‘can easily become nightmare’, the chancellor under Gordon Brown added it seemed ‘foolish’ to commit to a project that ruled out any other major schemes.

His comments came in The Times and follow earlier reservations he has expressed about HS2.

The Government has said the cost of HS2, whose first phase will see high-speed trains running from London to Birmingham around 2026, is around £50billion.

But an Institute for Economic Affairs report earlier this week estimated the eventual cost at £80billion, and it has been reported the Treasury is working on a figure of £73billion.

Mr Darling said today: “It is time to revisit the case for HS2. It runs the risk of substantially draining the railway of money vital for investment over the next 30 years.

“My experience in government also makes me suspicious of big projects that can easily run out of control. Politicians are always excited by ‘visionary’ schemes.

“One thing I have learnt is that transport, rather like banking, is at its best when it is boring. That is when it tends to work.

“Political visions can easily become nightmares.”

Mr Darling said it was true there were capacity problems on the route from London to the Midlands and north west England, but added there were also severe capacity problems on commuter routes, particularly in the south east.

He said: “And why high-speed trains? Certainly it’s handy to cut the journey time between Birmingham and London by half an hour. But at what cost?

“To commit ourselves to spending so much on a project that rules out any other major schemes seems foolish. And the costs are not yet nailed down.

“The facts have changed. The case for HS2 was just about stateable in 2010. I don’t believe it is today.”

Latest London transportation news

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Trains are severely disrupted at London Marylebone station (Photo: @laura_ellis)

Chiltern Railways trains in and out of London Marylebone are disrupted this morning after a tree blew down on the tracks near Willesden Green in the stormy weather.

Friday, May 27, 2016
A Bakerloo Line carriage (Photo: Peter Skuce)

There is currently no service on the Bakerloo Line between Piccadilly Circus and Queens Park after a man was hit by a train at Edgware Road.

Friday, May 27, 2016
(Image: TfL)

TfL have updated the Tube map, so now the humble tram can finally take its rightful place alongside its Underground brethren.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Here's how the shiny new trains look on the outside (Photo: Thameslink)

Spacious new Thameslink trains have been revealed – and you can see inside them here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
The Night Tube map showing which services will run all night

Just 24 hours after the Night Tube launch date was finally officially announced, London Underground maintenance and engineering workers have voted to go on strike in a continued dispute over pay and staffing levels.

Monday, May 23, 2016
The girl was struck by a train at Catford Bridge station (	Photo: Sunil060902)

A schoolgirl was hit by a train at Catford Bridge during this morning’s rush hour.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Win a BMW 1 series

There are fewer cars currently on the market more stylish and exciting than the BMW. Known all over the world as one of the best car manufacturers, the BMW is renowned for sleek designs and fantastic high quality workmanship.

Read more
Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Read more

Latest Tech News

Transport