When it comes to spending cuts to balance the tax cuts (both personal and corporate) that Britain needs, there are a few obvious places to look. The first that comes to mind is, not surprisingly, foreign aid. That would be around £11 billion saved at a stroke. But there is also a much bigger pot that can be raided: the insanity that is HS2. The High Speed 2 rail line was based on a falsehood – namely that time spent by businessmen on a train is ‘wasted’. This was what underpinned the estimate of the economic value of a high-speed train, whereas in fact any businessman worth his salt works while sitting on a train, reading and writing reports, emails, etc. In any case, even if it had been economically worthwhile when it was approved back in 2012, given that its costs have escalated from the original estimate of £32.7 billion to well over £100 billion (the latest estimate is £106bn, but nobody believes the cost increase will stop there) it is clearly utter madness to continue feeding this money-munching beast. If it is so important to save a few minutes on the journey between London and Birmingham it would probably just be cheaper to rebuild the whole of Birmingham closer to London!

The initial deceit – that a faster service would lead to more efficient and productive business – has been compounded with the justification for the project changing from a need for faster trains to a need for greater capacity. Even if this were true at the time, Covid and the move to working from home and video-conferencing has changed all that. Besides, if we need more capacity we should simply switch to double-decker trains. And the old chestnut about this not being possible because of our low bridges is utter tosh. It is perfectly possible to build new bridges, and even easier to lower the track. Lowering the track one mile before the bridge and one mile after (to have a suitable incline) could be done quickly, cheaply and easily.

But our officials and ministers refuse to listen to reason, and are so desperate to push their pet project through that they even lie to cover up the escalating catastrophe. In 2020 the parliamentary all-party public accounts committee accused the Department for Transport of deliberately hiding information about cost overruns and delays from MPs, saying: “The committee is concerned about how open the department and HS2 Ltd executives have been in their account of this project. It is massively over budget and delayed before work has even begun. There is no excuse for hiding the nature and extent of the problems the project was facing from parliament and the taxpayer”.

In order to prevent the costs escalating to such astronomic levels that the public opposition to HS2 would be irresistible, the government has made so many cutbacks that there is now almost nothing left of the original project. Entire sections of the planned route have been scrapped, and this week it’s been revealed that the government is planning to slash the number of trains from 18 to 10 an hour and reduce the trains’ speeds from 248 to 205 mph – or even as low as 125 mph. This death by a thousand cuts completely negates both the capacity and high speed rationales for the project!

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the best option is to face reality, bite the bullet and scrap the whole thing. Just put it out of its misery! Some people will argue that it’s too late, and that scrapping it now would be a waste of the money already spent. This is a very stupid argument and is what economists deride as the ‘sunk costs fallacy’. The truth is that it is much better to cut your losses than to continue with a venture that is a complete waste of resources. If terminated now, HS2 will have cost some £8bn, but a lot of this was spent on buying up properties along the route that could be resold – including many in London (such as the land of 400 destroyed Camden homes) – that could probably be resold at a profit!

The British Democrats would carry through these common-sense ideas and cuts to ensure the British taxpayer gets maximum value for money!

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