The House of Lords is to investigate the economic case for HS2, as part of a new inquiry that will invite evidence from groups and individuals who have an interest in the project.
Under the chairmanship of Lord Hollick, the second chamber’s Economic Affairs Committee will ask whether there is an economic case for HS2. It will also question whether the Department for Transport’s Strategic Case for HS2 published in October 2013 should have included any other factors in making an economic case for the project.
Additionally, the inquiry will seek to determine the likely economic benefits of HS2 to the Midlands, the North of England and to Scotland, and measure the level of dependency on complementary action by government and local authorities (for example, by developing plans to attract investment and skilled workers).
The controversial topic of whether London will be the main economic beneficiary of HS2 will also be explored - and similarly, whether other areas of the country will suffer economic disadvantage.
One area that has barely been discussed so far is that of the operation of the completed railway, and the committee will ask whether HS2 trains should be run under a franchise in competition with the West and East Coast Main Lines, or incorporating both. The level of HS2 fares (compared with other lines) will also be looked into, while the committee will examine whether the recently announced prospect of HS3 will affect HS2’s economic case.
However, the committee will not cover aspects of planning or the impact of the Hybrid Bill on individuals with property on the proposed route. The HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee is currently considering petitions on Phase 1 of HS2 in a separate parliamentary process in the House of Commons.
“HS2 is likely to represent one of the biggest infrastructure investment programmes in the UK for decades,” said Hollick.
“With over £50 billion of public money estimated to be spent, it is vital that the public has confidence the project will produce real economic benefits.
“Our inquiry will attempt to get to the bottom of what the real economic impact of HS2 will be, who will benefit and who might lose out. We will find out whether the Government has taken full account of all the economic considerations in setting out the case for HS2 and the impact in different parts of the UK.”
The committee’s inquiry and the report that it will produce will be based on the evidence it receives, said Hollick.
Written evidence should be sent to the committee by September 15. The evidence session will be open to the public.