More Delays & Wasted Money: Problems with HS2
In recent news, the UK government announced a two-year delay to the Birmingham to Crewe leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line. The reason given was soaring costs. This news has been met with criticism from the rail and construction industry, as well as the National Infrastructure Commission. However, I believe that this delay is an opportunity for the UK to reconsider its priorities and invest in upgrading the existing rail network, rather than pouring more money into a project with a questionable return on investment.
HS2 has been plagued with delays and rising costs since its conception in 2010. Originally expected to cost £33bn, the project's total cost has now soared to £71bn. This significant increase in cost, coupled with the delay to the Birmingham to Crewe leg, has raised questions about the project's viability.
The boss of GB Railfreight, John Smith, has warned against going ahead with a "half-baked" project. He believes that HS2 is critical in terms of freeing up capacity on the network and a key element of decarbonisation if the UK is to hit government environmental targets. However, doing it half-baked like this creates a number of problems, not least that the traffic on it that heads to Liverpool, Manchester and further north to Scotland will now spit itself out onto the old infrastructure at places like Crewe.
Moreover, the delay to the project will inevitably increase its costs because the construction project does not get stopped, it just runs out over a longer period of time. This delay will only push up costs in the long run, which is not good news for UK taxpayers.
Instead of continuing to pour money into HS2, the UK government should consider upgrading the existing rail network. A report by accountancy firm Deloitte in 2021 found that rail freight contributes nearly £2.5bn to the UK economy every year. If the government invests in upgrading the existing rail network, it will free up capacity, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work, and it is unlikely that there will be a full return to the office. This means that the demand for high-speed rail may not be as high as originally anticipated. Instead of investing in a project that may not have the return on investment that was originally projected, the government should focus on upgrading the existing network to meet the changing demands of the workforce.
In conclusion, the UK government should reconsider its priorities and invest in upgrading the existing rail network, rather than continuing to pour money into a project with a questionable return on investment. This delay to the Birmingham to Crewe leg of HS2 should be seen as an opportunity to invest in the existing rail network, which will free up capacity, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. This is the responsible way forward, and it will benefit UK taxpayers in the long run.