High-Speed Rail Cost Blowout in England?

The Sunday Times (London) reports that it has obtained a secret Cabinet report indicating that “The HS2 high-speed rail project is “highly likely” to go as much as 60% over budget and cost “more than £80 billion.” HS2 refers to the high speed rail project intended to link London to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and the East Midlands. According to The Sunday Times the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) called the plan “fundamentally flawed” and in a “precarious position.” Further, according to The Sunday Times, "cost escalation in the £56bn project could threaten wider public spending, interfering with funding across other government departments.”

The Cabinet report comes just weeks after release of a report by the European Union Court of Auditors. Particularly relevant to the HS2 are the Court's findings that EU high speed rail projects have been overbuilt. As we reported, “The European Court of Auditors found that high-speed rail has been built to considerably higher standards than required by their actual operation. They concluded that average speed are so far below the design speed that it 'raises questions as to sound financial management." The Court further found that: “The costs involved could in fact have been far lower, with little or no impact on operations.”

Coincidentally, The Sunday Times indicates that many members of Parliament would favor improvements to the conventional rail service in the corridor, which would obviously cost much less.