The Institute of Economic Affairs said the costs of HS2 construction could rise up to �80bn

Final HS2 bill could double according to think-tank

The London-Birmingham high-speed rail project could eventually cost over £80bn, almost twice the currently estimated top amount of £42.6bn.

The London-based think-tank has arrived at the final price tag after including £7.5bn spent on new trains and taking into account the fact that lobbying from local authorities to add new stations and links in exchange for support could result in extra spending of £30bn.

“It’s time the government abandoned its plans to proceed with HS2. The evidence is now overwhelming that this will be unbelievably costly to the taxpayer while delivering incredibly poor value for money,” said Richard Wellings, the report’s main author.

The report has also stated that the up-to £80bn spent on HS2 could deliver up to £320bn of value if spent on road and other rail and transport projects.

The think-tank has suggested the main motivation for the government to push the project forward despite all the objections stemmed from the need to secure votes in northern areas of the country. Nevertheless, the best thing to do, the think-tank believes, would be simply to halt it.

"It's shameful that, at a time of such financial difficulty for many families, the government is caving in to lobbying from businesses, local councils and self-interested politicians more concerned with winning votes than governing in the national interest," Wellings said.

However, the Department of Transport (DoT) maintains the project is of crucial economic importance. "HS2 is absolutely vital for this country, providing a huge economic boost which will generate a return on investment that will continue paying back for generations to come,” said the DoT spokesman.

"Without it the key rail routes connecting London, the Midlands and the North will be overwhelmed. HS2 will provide the capacity needed in a way that will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds worth of economic benefits.

At the same time, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has warned that life in towns and villages up to 25 miles from the rail route will be disrupted by the construction work and related traffic.

The charity has analysed available information and concluded the noise-levels in areas near the track would rise up to 95 decibels, equivalent to a tube train.

However, the charity said it struggled to get the information from the HS2 team. "It is not acceptable that it took a charity to uncover this and let up to half a million people know that they will be affected by this project," said CPRE senior transport campaigner Ralph Smyth.

"We asked HS2 for all the data on the construction and the scheme itself. The draft Environmental Statement was published on 16 May and that's when we asked for the full data. I was chasing the data all the time and they just kept saying 'it's coming by email' or 'it's in the post'," he said.

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