HS2 "wasteful vanity project" says TaxPayers Alliance

The HS2 high-speed rail scheme is a "wasteful vanity project" that should be abandoned, the TaxPayers Alliance has said.

In a new report, the campaign group argues that the business case for HS2 has "fallen apart", it unlikely to be completed on time and the projected cost could eventually top £90bn.

It added that demand for travel on HS2 is uncertain and technological developments, such as driverless cars, could make it an "obsolete technology" years before the first train sets off from Birmingham.

HS2 is officially expected to cost around £55.7bn, with phase one linking London and Birmingham due to open in 2026. A study by KPMG commissioned by HS2 Ltd, the company delivering the project, concluded it could deliver economic benefits worth £15bn a year by 2037.

However, MPs raised concerns about the timetable for the project being too ambitious in 2013 and earlier this year, the National Audit Office warned that the timetable is still unrealistic - and that the scheme risks going over budget.

It added that the £55.7bn funding package does not cover all the activity needed to deliver promised regeneration and growth benefits, and some elements of phase two, which will link Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds, are unfunded.

The NAO said the cost-benefit analysis for HS2 assumes it will be delivered "well within" its available funding but if it is close to, or exceeds, this funding, the benefits will diminish.

The TPA is calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to abandon the scheme now and instead focus on other infrastructure projects with better benefit-cost ratios.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "HS2 is a wasteful vanity project which is unlikely to be completed on schedule and will cost taxpayers a fortune.

"The new Prime Minister should now be pursuing bold and imaginative policies to boost economic growth and increase productivity - and that positive approach must include scrapping HS2, which has cost taxpayers far too much already. Ministers should instead be embarking on more worthwhile infrastructure projects that will cost less and deliver far better value."