What is the future of transport and HS2?

High Speed 2 (HS2) is a high-speed railway in the United Kingdom, partly under construction. Parliament approved plans for the first section in 2017. Then clearance work was undertaken for the line and stations. Some sections will have design amendments to integrate with Northern Powerhouse Rail. In this post I explore the impact that this transport project would have in bridging the North-South divide.

HS2 transport map
HS2: the 345-mile high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds

Transport subsidies

The strange thing about transport subsidies is that they seem to benefit services for the better-off. As an example, take the £106m bailout given to Flybe. How can the government economically or environmentally justify rescuing this airline? The same goes for HS2, a scheme that caters more to MPs desire of prestige projects. Rather than to the needs of ordinary people. In fact, a leaked draft report found that the final cost of HS2, could come to as much as £106bn. This is more than three times the original estimate of £52bn. And:

… the National Audit Office has raised the possibility of a further increase by admitting that it is “impossible to estimate with certainty” how much it will eventually cost.

The decision is now for the PM’s is to go ahead with HS2, or not. This is made more difficult as the recent election victory was based on a surge in support for the Tories in areas that would most enjoy a high-speed line. But if the real aim were to help low-income earners in the regions to get around, the Government should be investing in buses. These are the transport favoured by the less well-off 1. However, buses lack glamour.

In fact:

the net support given to the UK rail industry in 2018/19 totalled £7.1bn. The lion’s share of this went to Network Rail who received £3.86bn, whilst HS2 accounted for £2.6bn.


In 2017-18, private bus companies benefited from £2.18bn of public subsidies. However, since the advent of austerity in 2010 local authorities in England and Wales have cut £78m in funding, according to research from UK advocacy group Campaign for Better Transport.

Shifting the focus

By shifting the transport focus from HS2 to buses, it would:

  • join up communities,
  • free up capacity on other routes, and
  • consign at least the physical North-South divide to the past.

Ministers should stop indulging transport projects that reflect how they like to get around the country. Instead direct money to the day-to-day services the average voter depends on. Yes, it would come at a cost. But if we want a better transport infrastructure, it is a price we will have to pay.

What do you think? Leave a comment below:

Photo by Charles Forerunner on Unsplash

  1. buses account for 62% of all public transport journeys

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