So now we know for sure. Thanks to Grant Shapps, Westminster’s biggest open secret is finally out there. HS2 is actually going to cost considerably more than we were told four years ago.
For us at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, this is a bittersweet moment.
It’s bitter because the bill for HS2 will now be even more painful for taxpayers than we first assumed. This isn’t unusual for big government capital projects, which often come in over time and well over budget, as we explored in a recent paper. With the updated estimate of £81 to £86 billion, the railway will cost about the same as 24 supersized Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, which were estimated in July to come in at £6.8 billion a pair. The tax burden is already at a near 50-year high, and the money has to come from somewhere, so taxpayers are likely to acutely feel these costs.
But it’s also a moment of vindication for us. In 2017, we estimated the cost of HS2 would come in at about £90.8 billion. Other think tanks, like the Institute of Economic Affairs, made similar predictions. Respected voices, including transport infrastructure expert Michael Byng, cautioned against inaccurate official estimates, which seemed too low. But officialdom wasn’t interested. Our work was apparently somewhere between fantasy and downright lies.