The UK is building its HS2 high-speed rail line to Birmingham at five times the cost of a comparable TGV track in France, a new report has claimed.
The study by Leeds University researchers said the HS2 scheme with its high price tag is only going to provide questionable benefits to the environment and rail network capacity.
According to the study, HS2 construction comes at £105m per km while a TGV line from Tours to Bordeaux, which is currently under construction, only costs £20m per km.
The study explains the difference by the need of extensive tunnelling work in the Chilterns area, as well as the redevelopment of London's Euston station.
The team led by Professor Tony May suggested there were much less costly and environmentally damaging ways of boosting capacity on the rail network. They described the wider economic benefits to the North as ‘uncertain’, adding that the scheme "contributes nothing" to reducing carbon emissions from transport. They believe alternative options should be considered instead, including alternative routes better integrated with the existing network, enhancements at lower speed and investment in the North.
The team recommended a review be carried out to objectively consider alternative options.
HS2 Ltd, which manages the HS2 construction, dismissed the comparison with TGV, saying the French line did not require construction of any new stations.
“It does not go through a dense built-up urban area, it does not have the tunnels that we are building on HS2 to protect the environment, and property prices are very low in comparison to the UK,” an HS2 spokesman said.
He also said foreign firms with experience in building high-speed tracks will be contracted to build HS2 in order to drive cost down.
The firm also believes the scheme would reduce carbon emissions significantly when compared to cars and planes.
The first phase of HS2 is expected to be completed by around 2026 and will reduce journey times between London and Birmingham by 32 minutes.
A second Y-shaped phase, taking the line to North-East and North-West England and beyond, is due to be completed by around 2032/33.