HS2: Transport secretary to be quizzed by MPs over report

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Figures showed HS2 would make more than 50 places in the UK worse off

MPs are to question the transport secretary over a report that predicted the HS2 high-speed rail project would boost the UK economy by £15bn a year.

Patrick McLoughlin, as well as the report's authors KPMG, will appear before the Commons Transport Select Committee on 26 November.

Mr McLoughlin had used the report's positive findings to bolster support for the £50bn HS2 project.

But BBC Newsnight later revealed how some regions may suffer losses.

HS2's big winners

KPMG's 92-page report was released in September.

It listed the regions it said would benefit from the building of HS2, with Greater London (£2.8bn) and West Midlands (£1.5bn) the biggest winners, but omitted details of those who would end up worse off.

Mr McLoughlin presented the findings, saying HS2 would make "Britain stronger".

But, the extent to which regions not on the proposed line would be affected was only revealed following a freedom of information request passed to BBC Two's Newsnight programme..

It showed that more than 50 places across the UK - such as Aberdeen, Bristol and Cardiff - would be worse off as a result of HS2.

Transport experts have also questioned the reliability of the methods used to calculate the benefits.

A Department for Transport spokesman said it welcomed the committee's inquiry.

"HS2 is vital to the future of our country - it tackles the congestion problem south of Birmingham and will bring our great towns and cities closer together."

He said the KPMG report "makes an important contribution to our understanding of the impact of HS2".

"It is clear from their analysis that the country as a whole will benefit from the new north-south railway," he added.

£15bn estimate 'low'

Image caption,
Mr McLoughlin has said HS2 would benefit the entire country

Last week, KPMG's head of infrastructure, building and construction, Richard Threlfall, told the Commons Treasury Select Committee there had been no pressure from HS2 Ltd over the way the report was published.

He rejected suggestions his employer "cherry picked" the most positive aspects of the research and said it had "gone out of our way to be as transparent as possible".

And Lewis Atter, a partner in KPMG's global infrastructure and projects group, told the MPs that if anything the £15bn figure was "a little low".

Labour MP Louise Ellman, who chairs the transport committee which backed the strategic case for HS2 in a 2011 report, said: "HS2 is a hugely significant and controversial investment.

"We are following up the questions we raised in our earlier report, in the light of significant new information."