The National Audit Office, Parliament’s spending watchdog as it’s often called, issued a critical report on plans for High Speed 2, the proposed high speed rail line north out of London.
The NAO is concerned about the lack of clarity around the Department for Transport’s objectives. The strategic case for the network should be better developed at this stage of the programme. It is unclear how HS2 will transform regional economies by delivering jobs and growth. The Department is still trying against a challenging timetable to strengthen its evidence and analysis, which at present provide a weak foundation for securing and demonstrating success in the programme in future.
My view is that the best argument for HS2 is to meet the need of London residents who don’t run cars but who need to travel beyond the capital. London’s population is growing rapidly. Car use is limited by the capacity of the road network. Car trips, as a share of all journey, are in steady decline, from 50% in 1990 to 38% currently. The benefits of HS2 for cities in the Midlands and the North are unclear, although many people are optimistic. We shall have to wait and see to what extent these materialise.