Isn’t it about time the press woke up to the fact that HS2 is going to cost the tax payer upwards of £100 billion and has very little public support.
Politicians will be out in force over the next few weeks trying to convince the electorate why they should vote for them. The usual TV debates, such as Question Time, will be back on the air debating the issues. Radio stations, such as LBC and Radio 5 Live, will devote endless hours to the election where politicians will be on air every morning regurgitating the usual spin in an attempt to convince the public to vote for them.
The NHS, Brexit, immigration, education and other political hot potatoes will all be debated, however one subject – High Speed Two, will not be getting a lot of air time.
Despite the efforts of one or two national newspapers, such as the Guardian and Telegraph, HS2 is generally not a subject that the daily newspapers tend to focus on. For some unknown reason, the sheer waste of public money, conflict of interest issues, and the destruction of residential housing on a grand scale all seem to have slipped under the radar of most newspaper editors. Perhaps the fact that HS2 only affects people that live closest to the proposed line of route is one of the reasons why most newspapers haven’t really investigated the project thoroughly just yet.
The government are still claiming that the funding envelope of £55.7 billion will not need to be enlarged. Assuming this is correct, £56 billion is still a massive amount of public money, which the next government could spend on far more important projects.
Considering we live in a country where cancer patients have their operations cancelled due to a shortage of hospital beds, how can any sane politician think that HS2 is a good way to spend £56 billion. The NHS is at breaking point and for many hospitals, running on ‘red’ alert status is a daily occurrence.
Many of the elderly that go into hospital end up occupying hospital beds that they do not actually need because social care is now massively under-funded and has effectively collapsed. Hospitals have turned into enormous care homes.
Highly trained consultants, anaesthetists and theatre staff regularly prepare for major operations only to be told that they must be cancelled at the last minute due to the the fact that there are no beds available. A&E’s are at breaking point, as more and more people use them for minor ailments as they cannot get an appointment with their doctor.
A record number of food parcels were handed out last year to people that can’t afford to buy food. In fact, there were 1.2 million handed out and some even went to our nurses, according to the Royal College of Nursing, as many nurses are struggling to make ends meet at the end of the week.
Planned benefit cuts in the pipeline will result in 3 million households becoming worse off to the tune of an average £2500 per year.
More than half a million children are being taught in “super-size” classes of more than 30 pupils as many primary schools do not have adequate capacity to meet demand. Primary schools are now facing the prospect of £3 billion worth of cuts. At the other end of the education scale, our students are leaving university with life changing levels of debt, due to extortionate tuition fees.
Further increases in the state pension age could push it to the point where many working people die before qualifying for it.
There are not enough houses for people to live in and 75,000 families spent last Christmas day in temporary accommodation.
The road network across the UK is crumbling as many councils cannot afford to repair pot holes and our motorway network is seriously congested. It is 2017 and many parts of the UK still cannot access a decent broadband service.
Since 2009, there are 20,000 fewer police officers in England and Wales – no wonder many of our streets don’t feel safe. Our prisons are overcrowded and staffed by a prison service that has 31% fewer prison officers.
Council tax bills are rising at a disproportionate level to the services they provide. Many councils are now at breaking point due to budget cuts, and 40% anticipate having to make further cuts in frontline services.
The country is about to leave the EU, which is bound to cost a fortune, however we are planning to spend £56 billion on HS2.
HS2 is an expensive vanity project which must be scrapped
In March 2010, Lord Adonis announced that HS2 would cost £30bn for 335 miles of track, which included a “substantial built in risk factor”.
Clearly the risk factor was not suitably calculated as in 2013 Treasury officials suggested to the Financial Times that what had been a £30bn project, and then a £42bn project, was now starting to look more like a £72bn project. The Major Projects Authority, which oversaw complex government projects, consistently gave the railway the rating “Amber/Red” – meaning a “high risk” of not delivering value for money.
In 2013, the National Audit Office stated that officials were using “fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions that do not reflect real life”. The committee spoke of “serious shortcomings” in HS2’s cost-benefit analysis.
The Institute of Directors called it a “grand folly”. The Institute for Economic Affairs predicted a cost of £80bn and said the line “defies economic logic”. Even the Engineering Employers Federation demanded the money be switched to roads. The former chairman of Eurostar, Adam Mills, wrote a letter to the Times, calling HS2’s economics “away with the fairies”.
In June 2016, the National Audit Office noted that the first phase of HS2 was set to cost £27.4bn, £204m over budget, and said that the £55.7bn funding package “does not cover funding for all the activity needed to deliver the promised growth and regeneration benefits which is the responsibility of local authorities”
According to the Tax Payers Alliance projected costs are rising and are now likely to be £90 billion.
We simply can’t afford HS2
The government are still claiming that the funding envelope of £56 billion will not need to be enlarged. Assuming this is correct, £56 billion is still a massive amount of public money, which the next government could spend on far more important projects. Virtually every major infrastructure project has gone over budget. Assuming that HS2 will break the mould and stay on budget, what else could the government spend the money on?
Let’s try nearly 14000 new A&E departments, or perhaps the annual salary of every doctor in the UK for the next 19 years, or the annual salary for all our nurses for the next 14 years.
Sticking with health, how about nearly a million miracle cancer drugs that the government won’t allow the NHS to fund at present. If that’s not a top priority, how about 140,000 brand new CT scanners?
How about a few more medical students? £56 billion would fund the cost of training 224,000 of them over the next 37 years. It would also pay the annual salary of every hospital consultant for the next 14 years.
Maybe a few more hospitals would do the trick, such as another 131 just like the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.
We could even help the social care crisis by spending the money on funding residential care for 383,000 people for the next 5 years.
We could build 2,240 new secondary schools, or pay for 1,000,000 students to go to University.
How about 560,000 brand new council homes – not a bad idea considering the current housing crisis.
£56 billion would pay for the annual salary of every police officer in the UK for the next 14 years, or the salary of every Prison Officer for next 178 years. Using Diane Abbott’s police recruitment costs, £56 billion would pay for us all to have our own personal police officer for the next 29 years. What a shame she can’t add up!
On the subject of trains, we could buy 56,000 brand new Virgin trains, or pay for the cost to electrify the Great Western railway from London to South Wales 20 times over. In fact, we could electrify the whole rail network.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of listening to politicians from the major parties spouting about how they will spend more money on the NHS, education and social care by either raising taxes or borrowing even more money.
What is incredible about the HS2 project is the fact that all the major political parties support it. Despite the fact that there is a growing number of MP’s from both sides that don’t support HS2, the Gravy Train rolls on.
What is even more incredible is the fact that the Labour Party, who claim to represent the working classes, support an infrastructure project that would not benefit the working classes one bit, as many would have no need to travel from London to Manchester each day, even if they could afford to.
Of all the government projects where public money has been wasted, HS2 has to be the most futile.