HS2 cost could rise to £100bn, warns McVey
HS2 could cost almost double the official estimate after the Government wrote a “blank cheque” for the scheme, a senior minister has said.
Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, told constituents that the final bill for the high speed rail line could exceed £100billion compared with a formal estimate of £56billion.
Ms McVey is among at least half a dozen cabinet ministers who believe the Government should review the scheme to establish whether its completion would represent value for money, amid mounting concern over its cost, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
The disclosure of her comments comes after Boris Johnson joined MPs calling for HS2 to be scrapped, with the savings spent at least in part on the NHS.
Ms McVey attacked the scheme at a public meeting in her Cheshire constituency last November. The Government has insisted that HS2 is “on time and on budget”, a figure which is currently set at £56billion having risen from a projection of £43billion in 2013.
But the then deputy chief whip told constituents: “We need to look at the business case again. The cost we believe might now be more than £100billion. There might be a business case for HS2 at £56billion, but at any cost? I don’t think so. We’ve asked HS2 ‘can you do it?’ We’ve written them a blank cheque and of course they will tell you they can do it if you are writing them a blank cheque.”
Speaking at a public meeting in her constituency of Tatton, in comments reported by the Winsford Guardian, a local newspaper, Ms McVey said: “When I look at what HS2 is about I ask what problem is it trying to solve?
“We’ve been told it is about improving public health, about improving speed, about improving capacity. And what might have seemed like the right solution in 2010 – is that still the right solution in 2030?”
HS2 will link London and Birmingham, with a second phase to stretch to Manchester and Leeds. The first section is due to open in 2026, with the project projected to be completed in 2033.
But Ms McVey added: “Communication, technology, all these things are changing. Are people still wanting to move across the country, north to south? We need services across the north and we don’t want that broken down by high-speed railway to London. We need services across the north to come first.”
A HS2 Ltd spokesman said: “HS2 will rebalance the economy by connecting over 25 towns and cities and nearly half of UK economic output. It will also increase rail capacity on the current system and reduce journey times, and is already creating thousands of jobs across the UK... HS2 is already helping to attract new investment to the Midlands and the North, a process which will only accelerate as the line is built.”