National Audit Office says “HS2 rail benefits to economy are unclear”

The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that the benefits of the HS2 high-speed rail project on the economy are unclear.

The NAO said in a report that it had “reservations” about how the London-to-Birmingham link would deliver growth, adding that the project had an estimated £3.3bn funding gap. However, Patrick McLoughlin the Transport Secretary  said the NAO’s conclusions were based on old data. Labour said the report was a “worrying wake-up call” for the government.

The NAO said it had “reservations about the business case” and said the timetable for the planning phase of the project – with work due to start in 2016-17 – was “challenging”.

The report, published on 16th May, said: “In particular, in presenting its case for investment in the project, the Department of Transport (DfT) has poorly articulated the strategic need for a transformation in rail capacity and how High Speed 2 will help generate regional economic growth.”

The department’s “methodology for appraising the project puts a high emphasis on journey-time savings, from faster and more reliable journeys, but the relationship between these savings and the strategic reasons for doing the project, such as rebalancing regional economies, is unclear”.

The full coverage of the news from the BBC can be read here