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HS2 The Ultimate Vanity Trainset

Monday, January 28, 2013
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Today's announcement of routes for the HS2 project highlights the importance governments ascribe to public works projects.

Students might consider whether this project does address fundamental infrastructure weaknesses in the UK. Would it be more beneficial to improve the motorway trunk network - adding more capacity on Trans-Pennine routes or an alternative to the M1 and M6 roads. Why not consider building a direct rail link to Heathrow  from Birmingham? Is there a case for a new London airport with fast train links? 

The Department for Transport's 2011 paper on The Economic Case for HS2 gives some background, but The Department's policy paper: "High speed rail: investing in Britain's future phase two - the route to Leeds, Manchester and beyond", includes plenty of other material to weigh up the project, including maps of the proposed HS2 lines

Some might also wonder if the state should be involved in the first place. The Victorian railways were funded by shareholders, not governments. The risk was borne by the investors not the taxpayers. Business studies students could consider if HS2 will ever achieve a positive rate of return over its lifetime.  There is a brief outline of the pros and cons of this scheme on The BBC's news website. The Economist Magazine highlighted concerns raised by The Public Accounts Committee about the accuracy of The Department For Transport's CBA for the HS1 Channel Tunnel Rail Link to London. If The Department's forecasting is inaccurate, then the case for building HS2 is undermined. Supporters of the scheme might argue that HS2 is an engine for regional economic development.

Dirgiste infrastructure projects are no strangers to waste, have politicians learnt from Concorde or The Humber Bridge? 

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