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Alistair Darling says case for HS2 is 'foolish'

Former chancellor Alistair Darling has said that High Speed 2 (HS2) has become too expensive and could drain the railways of investment

Writing for The Times and reported in our sister publication Construction News, the former transport secretary said: ‘HS2 runs the risk of substantially draining the railways of money vital for investment over the next 30 years.

‘In the past few days it’s been reported that the Treasury now believes the cost could top £70 billion on just one railway line. To put this in perspective, the Department for Transport spends about £9 billion a year on all capital projects, including roads, rail and other public transport.’

He added: ‘To commit ourselves to spending so much on a project that rules out any other major schemes seems foolish. And the costs are not yet nailed down.

‘The facts have changed. The case for HS2 was just about stateable in 2010. I don’t believe it is today.’

High Speed 2 was set to cost £30bn when proposed by the Labour government in 2010 but the Treasury said last month the budget for the two phases of the scheme is £42.6bn including a contingency fund of £14.4bn.

A report published last week by think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs estimated the cost of the project could almost double to £80bn.

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