The ex rail guru delivered a damning verdict on HS2 at the House of Lords economic affairs committee earlier this week.
Chris Stokes, an independent rail consultant who was previously a director at British Rail and an executive director at the Strategical Rail Authority, told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee:
“There is probably close to a zero chance of HS2 being built within the £56bn ceiling, unless there are changes of scope”,
He went on to destroy one of the key fundamental arguments for building HS2, claiming that:
“The amount of additional train path capacity that HS2 brings to the North of England is pretty much zero”
In response to a question from Lord Forsyth, Mr. Stokes said the chances of HS2 being on budget were “probably close to zero”, unless the specifications of the project were scaled back
Stokes also pointed out that the idea that HS2 would free up masses of capacity on existing lines, by getting rid of the existing London services and replacing them with commuting trains is spurious, pointing out that only two trains arrive in Manchester from London in the morning peak:
“One of those trains goes via Stoke and Macclesfield, and it’s not full of people who left Euston at 6.30, it’s full of people from Stoke and Macclesfield.
"The other train goes via Crewe and Wilmslow, and it’s full of people from Crewe to Wilmslow. Those trains would have to run anyway. The position with Leeds is exactly the same, and the amount of additional train path capacity that HS2 brings to the North of England is pretty much zero.”
An HS2 Ltd spokesperson however said that our challenge is set to deliver the £55.7bn set budget.
They said: “Over 100 towns and cities are set to benefit from the extra capacity that HS2 will bring.
"As the backbone to Britain’s railways, HS2 will transform rail journeys, improve reliability and give rail passengers thousands of extra seats every day.
"We are working with our partners in the Midlands and the North to ensure HS2 plays a significant role in rebalancing the economy and joining up Britain.”
“The budget for HS2 was set at the 2015 Spending Review. It was set at £55.7bn. Our challenge is to deliver HS2 to that budget, working with our supply chain to drive efficiencies and economies of scale across every part of the project.”
top HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“Demonstrating the argument that HS2 is needed to ‘release capacity’ is false is a hammer blow that removes a fundamental pillar which has been propping up the ever crumbling case for HS2. For years, HS2 has been sold on this idea that it frees up capacity, but for thousands of commuters that could only ever mean losing the trains they currently use and getting a worse service, or even no service at all as a result.”
“Everyone in the whole country knows that HS2 cannot and will not be delivered to budget. The problem is that while there is a zero chance of HS2 being delivered on budget, there is also a zero chance of Chris Grayling ever having the guts to admit it.”