HS2: Eddie Mair challenges rail spokesperson over huge budget

11 February 2020, 17:39 | Updated: 11 February 2020, 17:40

Eddie Mair challenged the rail chief on the mounting costs of HS2 and why the UK needs it after the Prime Minister confirmed the go-ahead for the project.

This is after Boris Johnson approved the controversial high speed rail line despite concerns over budget.

Rail Delivery Group director Robert Nisbet replied, "What we need is a set change in capacity because the problem that we have on Britain's railways is that we're running out of space." He shared that he was "happy" Number 10 has listened to the rail group's urges to build these new HS2 tracks.

Eddie countered that the UK could increase its rail capacity without building HS2.

Mr Nisbet responded that to increase the rail capacity of the existing rail lines would be "so disruptive" and for example if the West coast mainline extended their reach it would mean "service disruption every weekend for nearly three decades."

He said that HS2 is the way to carry more people around and is essentially facilitating attempts to get trucks and cars off the road.

"How much money would be too much for HS2?" asked Eddie.

Boris Johnson announced today that he is approving the HS2 project despite cost concerns
Boris Johnson announced today that he is approving the HS2 project despite cost concerns. Picture: PA

He explained why the costs have risen: "The Treasury has required significant amounts of contingency to be included on top of the expected cost. That has been putting billions of pounds on to the total.

"Also government procurement rules have changed since phase one was passed in Parliament and that's required companies to be liable for the rail line for 25 years."

"So £106 billion has been talked about now, would £110 be too much? £150? £200? Is HS2 worth any price?" asked Eddie, "how high is too high?"

Mr Nisbet said he couldn't put a figure on that but "welcomes the government keeping a keener eye" on the way money is being sent.

"The benefits are still going to be greater than the money put into the line if you look at the money that has been budgeted for its completion."