HS2 is a calamity, but it would be politically toxic for Boris Johnson to scrap it
Quick rundown of his main arguments:
- Costs are "out of control", from £55 bn at 2015 prices to £106 bn at today's, and nobody much believes the second figure is high enough. This has "wrecked" HS2's business case. A mere £3 bn (20%) overspend at Crossrail (which is nearly finished) has already made the political sky fall in.
- Arguments about more capacity only surfaced when reductions in journey times turned out to be small*
- Plenty of capacity on trains to the lines it serves*
- Likely to exacerbate north south divide, not reduce it
- HS2 was originally "conceived as a sop to environmentalists" moaning about LHR's 3rd runway, and HS2 will do tremendous environmental damage
But, he notes, the new political bloc of angry northerners' Tory MPs will need feeding, especially when the wonderful Crossrail is working for those southern softies. His ideal solution would be to transform their terrible suburban rail networks, but this would take to long. So, his alternative to HS2 is a big expansion in buses.
*I'd thought this was more that modelling predicted much need for more capacity in future. And if he wants to go from Euston through Bham on the big shiny trains at the busy time,"last helicopter out of Saigon" might spring to mind.The problem for Johnson is that improvements to those regional suburban rail systems will take time as well as money, and his best chance of winning some credit with those voters may well lie in rapid and extensive investment in buses. If that sounds rather unexciting, he should bear in mind that it may play better than promising a new railway that will not fully connect with the north until 2040.