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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > December 2017 > Should we scrap HS2?

Should we scrap HS2?

YES High-Speed Two, the rail development that will connect London to Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and the East Midlands, was never a properly- planned railway. It was a political vanity project “sold” to David Cameron in 2010 as an alternative to a new runway at Heathrow, which he was then pledged to oppose. It swiftly attracted commercial lobbying and became a totem of the coalition government’s infrastructure machismo.

Higher speed is not regarded as a critical factor in rail travel and track congestion is far worse in other corridors into London, notably from the south and the west. While there is always a case for more rail investment, HS2 passed not a single test for priority, whether in the Department of Transport, the Treasury or the think tanks and Commons committees that investigated it.

Since there is no infinite stock of rail investment, HS2’s official total cost of £55.7bn, as set out in the 2015 spending review, can only impede Britain’s dire record of rail electrification, and worsen the poor state of north-country intercity links, both road and rail. In addition, as with such projects in France and elsewhere, better transport draws growth to the more attractive end of the line. HS2 is in effect a massive subsidy to London.

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In Prospect’s December issue: Adam Posen, Diane Coyle and Nicolas Véron examine the state of Britain’s economy with Brexit looming and suggest that with a large part of the City looking to move and with productivity remaining low the outlook is firmly negative. Posen suggests that the only thing capable of disciplining the Brexit economy is the reality that things are going to be worse. Coyle suggest that although Brexit will hamper Britain’s productivity, the problem is long-term. Véron argues that more than a tenth of the City’s business will disappear due to Brexit—a significant slice that will be difficult to cover off. Elsewhere in the issue: Steve Bloomfield uncovers what is going on at Dfid, the struggling government department that recently lost its Secretary of State. Nick Cohen looks at the rise of the Strong Man is Eastern Europe as Viktor Orbán clamps down on society and Lizzie Porter reports from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region plagued by war and political instability.
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