It’s no secret that ambitious public infrastructure projects often end up running monumentally over budget. Recent transport history is littered with such examples, like the Jubilee Line Extension in the late 90s, which exceeded initial forecasts by over £1 billion. Or the Channel Tunnel, which ended up costing more than twice as much as originally planned, with final costs in the region of £12 billion in today’s money.
Yet these numbers are small change compared to the likely overspend of HS2, the railway juggernaut that successive administrations have allowed to trundle on, in the face of increasingly critical expert opinion and the project’s diminishing popularity amongst the British public.
As revealed in a leaked report, transport officials have been aware of the scheme’s fundamental flaws for some time, warning in December 2016 that HS2 would overshoot its £56bn budget by as much as 60 per cent, meaning that final costs could exceed £90 billion. To make matters worse, The Times reports today that a quarter of HS2 officials are thought to be on ‘Fat Cat’ salaries worth over £100k — with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling facing probing questions from the Treasury. And just last week, Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, called for a further £43 billion “to get the biggest bang for our buck” by ensuring the line connects with efficient transport networks at either end.