IET: Lessons not learned from previous High Speed rail mistakes

Engineers are warning that the current High Speed 2 proposals must learn from the mistakes made during the planning of the first high speed railway line which connects London and the Channel Tunnel.

The warning comes as the new Public Accounts Committee report concludes that there were over-optimistic forecasts about the number of passengers on High Speed 1 (HS1).

Chris Richards, Transport Policy Advisor at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: “This report highlights the need to get the details on High Speed 2 right from the outset. In our response to the Department for Transport consultation we made it clear that there were potential flaws in the analysis, several assumptions were made in crucial areas and serious questions have been left unanswered.

“Today’s report backs up our concerns as the original High Speed 1 business case was based on journey time saving benefits and increased rail capacity. The total value of these benefits is not known as the Department for Transport has not yet developed a method to evaluate HS1 project costs against benefits, despite this forming part of the High Speed 2 justification.

“High Speed 2 is a project of major national significance, if we get this wrong, we will regret it for decades to come.”

The Public Accounts Committee report concludes that:

§ Over-optimistic and unrealised forecasts for passenger demand on High Speed 1 left the taxpayer saddled with £4.8 billion of debt.

§ Unrealistic passenger estimates for High Speed 1 must not be repeated in the business case for HS2.

§ Some of the DfT's assumptions about the benefit of faster travel are untenable.

§ The DfT does not have sufficient understanding of the economic impact and regeneration benefits of transport infrastructure, compared with alternatives, so is not able to make fully-informed investment decisions.


Notes to editors:

§ The Public Accounts Committee report can be downloaded at:

§ The IET’s response to the High Speed 2 consultation can be found here:

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