Scrap HS2 Rail, says think tank

The Adam Smith Institute has branded the High-Speed 2 rail project ‘economically irresponsible’ and has called for it to be scrapped, in a new paper.

Nigel Hawkins, who penned the briefing paper Network Fail: Getting UK rail back on track, argues that HS2 will cost nine times more per mile than high speed tracks in France and will deliver ‘rock bottom’ returns.

The government should, he outlines, focus attention and finance on schemes like the electrification of the TransPennine Railway and the London-Sheffield mainline, as a way of ensuring its Northern Powerhouse agenda.

Hawkins has also argued that National Rail should be progressively sold down. An initial 49.9 per cent sale to long-term investing institutions is proposed; in the interim, its finances need major over-hauling. The eventual aim should be to create a railway equivalent of National Grid - now worth over £40 billion - in the electricity sector.

Hawkins said: “Action to sort out Britain's railways is a priority. Radical decisions are needed to deliver financial competence, sensible investment and improved customer benefits into the system.

“Scrapping the shockingly expensive HS2, selling up to 49.9 per cent of Network Rail and cracking down on under-performing franchises are priorities.”