English High-Speed Rail Farce Continues

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The never-ending farce that is Britain’s endlessly delayed high-speed rail project continues apace. First, the £20-billion-dollar-at-the-very-most estimate went up to £80-billion-at-the-very-most; then the key driver of the idea backed out, effectively calling it a political stunt; and now, as the Daily Mail notes this morning with ill-disguised amusement, the “high speed” part is under threat from the climate-change brigade:

The Government’s controversial High Speed 2 rail link will be dealt a huge blow tomorrow as MPs demand that the top speed for trains on the line should be slashed by 40mph.

The proposal is just one of a damaging series of criticisms of the £50 billion HS2 project contained in a leaked parliamentary report seen by The Mail on Sunday.

The slower speed would add ten minutes to the predicted journey time from London to Birmingham, making it only 25 minutes quicker than current trains.

What to do? Dr. Richard Wellings, who works at the Institute of Economic Affairs, has a rather good idea:

’The most obvious thing to do to if they’re worried about carbon emissions is not to build it at all. From an environmental point of view it makes more sense to make better use of existing lines.’

Indeed so. But Wellings is making a mistake here: He is presuming that what makes sense is relevant. Thus far at least, the case for the project appears to have been no more sophisticated than that high-speed rail is a good thing and that Britain should therefore have it. As it stands, no amount of evidence to the contrary has managed to dissuade its advocates from ploughing ahead. I don’t see why this should.


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