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Press release

Lessons not yet learned from previous High Speed rail mistakes

28 March 2012

Engineers are today warning that the current High Speed 2 proposals must learn from the mistakes made during the planning of the first high speed railway line which connects London and the Channel Tunnel.

The warning comes as the National Audit Office publishes “The completion and sale of High Speed 1” report, which concludes that while passenger numbers have increased, they are still below original expectations.

Chris Richards, Transport Policy Advisor at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: “This report highlights the need to get the details on High Speed 2 right from the outset. In our response to the Department for Transport consultation we made it clear that there were potential flaws in the analysis, several assumptions were made in crucial areas and serious questions have been left unanswered.

“The report backs up our concerns as the original High Speed 1 business case was based on journey time saving benefits and increased rail capacity. The total value of these benefits is not known as the Department for Transport has not yet developed a method to evaluate HS1 project costs against benefits, despite this forming part of the High Speed 2 justification.

“High Speed 2 is a project of major national significance, if we get this wrong, we will regret it for decades to come.”

The National Audit Office report on High Speed 1 highlights:

  • International rail passenger numbers fall far short of original forecasts.
  • Project costs exceed the value of journey time saving benefits.
  • Construction costs were 18% higher than target costs.
  • Passenger numbers were two-thirds of their forecast level.
  • The Department for Transport has no value to attribute to the project’s benefits as they have not yet developed a method to evaluate project costs and benefits (despite High Speed 2 being based on similar project benefits).
  • These costs and benefits have not been assessed for over a decade, despite promises made to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Media enquiries to:

Robert Beahan
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7595 400912

Notes to editors:

  • The IET’s response to the High Speed 2 consultation can be found at:
  • Interview opportunities are available with IET transport policy experts. 
  • The IET is Europe’s largest professional body of engineers and a source of essential engineering intelligence.

For more information, visit