The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has hit back at a report which claims that the government’s pursuit of HS2 is misguided and could cost the taxpayer almost double its £42.6 billion budget.

A report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – entitled ‘The High-Speed Gravy Train‘ – suggests that not only do the benefits of high-speed rail not justify the cost but that politicians had ignored the evidence and proceeded with the project for political reasons.

Author Dr Richard Wellings also said that planned alterations to the route in response to concerns from campaign groups could bump the budget up to more than £80 billion.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, reacted angrily to the report, describing its conclusions as ‘wild guesses’ with no evidence base.

“Overall the report is in many areas flimsy and unsubstantiated and no account is given to the disastrous results of not building HS2,” said Blackett.

“They ignore the broader impact of the gridlock on the West Coast mainline that will result if we do nothing.

“Development of HS2 will free up the existing lines and open up easier reports for getting our export goods to ports like Southampton.

“The report is extremely London and south-east centric and advocates only investing in those areas, ignoring the cases for the midlands and the north.

“If that thinking was allowed to prevail we could arrive at a situation where we would have an even more affluent London and south-east, a federated Scotland leaving the midlands and the north with a limited say on its own destiny.

“It’s vital that the midlands promotes its own cause in the wake of this concerted effort by interested parties to undermine one of the most important construction projects the country has advocated in recent years.”

“The IEA report is extremely speculative and completely lacking in concrete facts.

“The headline £80bn figure appears to have been arrived at by lumping together transport schemes that are not part of HS2 and in some cases are many miles from the line.

“The report claims a theoretical and unsourced cost of £30bn for these projects, although elsewhere admits many will never be built. The IEA also fails to show how a myriad of piecemeal incremental transport schemes would address the capacity and connectivity issues that we face or how they would even come close to providing the opportunities that HS2 as an Engine for Growth will bring to the national economy.

“The fact is HS2 is absolutely vital for this country. Without it the key rail routes connecting London, the Midlands and the North will be overwhelmed. This report does nothing to challenge these undeniable facts.”

HS2 statement