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.”

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest London transportation news

Thursday, April 23, 2015
Pictured: The Badlands [Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images]

London’s Transport Commissioner has slammed commuter rail services, comparing them to the ‘Wild West’, and even using four-letter words to describe them.

Thursday, April 23, 2015
[Photograph by Dan Kitwood]

Tufnell Park station on the Northern Line is closed this morning due to a local power failure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The entire Bakerloo line is suspended because of a fire alert and a signal failure

A fire alert at Piccadilly Circus has led to delays on the entire Bakerloo Line, with no Tubes between Queen’s Park and Elephant and Castle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Liverpool Street station (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

A woman has died after she was hit by a Central Line train at Liverpool Street station.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
A view of Piccadilly Circus during a cab drivers' protest last summer [Photograph by @suttonnick]

Black cab drivers will stage a ‘go-slow’ protest on Oxford Street at 2pm today to raise awareness of alleged “dangers to public safety”.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
The Central Line is suspended between White City and Marble Arch [Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

There are severe delays to the Central Line after a train came off the rails at Holland Park in the early hours of this morning.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

We have censored part of this image

Keith Fraser, the UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington has apologised after retweeting an Islamophobic cartoon which looks similar to Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of the Prophet yesterday morning.