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Since January, 2012 when the Government announced its decision to proceed with High Speed 2 (HS2) linking London and Birmingham, later extending to Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow, 51m has been challenging the project.

The third reading of the High Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Bill was approved by the House of Commons on 23 March, 2016

The business case for HS2 is seriously flawed, representing very poor value for money to the taxpayer. It will make a minimal contribution to the country’s carbon reduction target and the environmental impact will be devastating. Above all, the country cannot afford it. 

51m is an alliance of councils that has come together to challenge the evidence base of the HS2 project. They are known as “51m” because that represents how much HS2 will cost each and every Parliamentary Constituency…£51 million, based on the original estimate of £33 billion. 

On 26 June, 2013 the Secretary of State for Transport revealed a revised figure for the project of £42.6bn, excluding £7.5bn for rolling stock. In November, 2015 the estimate was further revised to £55.7bn. The project will also trigger Barnett formula payments to Northern Ireland and Scotland amounting to £7.4bn, taking the overall figure to £63.1bn

In opposing the project 51m is  joined by many organisations and transport experts. The Institute of Directors referred to HS2 as a “grand folly” . The Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Transport had failed to present a convincing strategic case for a project with dwindling benefits and spiralling costs. In a report published in October, 2013 the Treasury Select Committee said there were “serious shortcomings” in the current cost-benefit analysis for HS2.

A 2013 report commissioned by the Government revealed that HS2 would make more than 50 places across the UK worse off – such as Aberdeen, Bristol and Cardiff.

In November, 2013 a report from the CentreForum think tank said, “pet projects such as HS2 should be canned. We can’t afford them. Smaller less glamorous projects will give us better results, and we’ll get them much faster and more cheaply.”

In 2015 the Government finally published the assessment of HS2 made by the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority in 2011. Its ‘amber/red’ assessment concluded the successful delivery of the project was in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. All subsequent MPA reports have also given ‘amber/red’ assessments for the project.

In April, 2014 the Institute of Economic Affairs concluded the government risks misleading the public with claims that HS2 will transform the North of England.

In March, 2015 the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee concluded “there was no convincing case” for HS2.

In May, 2015 it was reported that the team behind HS2 concluded that there was no business case for extending the line to Scotland.

In June, 2016 a National Audit Office report said there were serious questions about achieving the current timetable and keeping to the £55.7bn budget.


We also believe a robust mitigation plan is essential and in this respect 51m will fight for the best deal for local residents. In our view, the cost of mitigation measures represents an essential price the Government must pay.  

L A T E S T …. 

Rail passenger numbers and crowding on weekdays in major cities in England and Wales: 2015 – Dft report click here

HS2 Ltd Annual Report and Accounts 2015/16 - click here

Lords Select Committee Locus Standi challenges – programme for the 4 to 20 July click here

HS2 Ltd Community Engagement – our approach going forward – presentation slides click here

National Audit Office - Progress with preparations for High Speed 2 click here

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee – follow up to PHSO Report of an investigation into a complaint about HS2 Ltd: Government and HS2 Ltd responses. To read the report click here

Residents’ Commissioner – 4th report May, 2016 to read the report click here

Lords Select Committee – oral session 19 May. For link to watch click here

Lords Select Committee announces initial stepsfor details click here 

Review of HS2 Ltd’s complaints handling and community engagement – following a report by the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman on an investigation into complaints about HS2 Ltd click here

Lords debateto read the transcript of the debate on the second reading of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill which took place in the House of Lords on 14 April, 2016  click here 

Property Bond Option – Select Committee response 15 February, 2016 click here  

Campaign for the Protection of Rural England

CPRE has produced maps to show the the impacts in terms of construction and operation of HS2 click here

HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee

Chilterns Long Tunnel proposal. For more information on the proposal see (1) CLT summary and (2) CLT Full report Report

Chilterns Long Tunnel

The case for tunnel to preserve the AONB – see news release

‘Jobs and Growth Now’ The 51m Alternative Investment Challenge to HS2

Alternative ways of spending the £50 billion, earmarked for HS2, on schemes which will bring more immediate economic benefits across the UK are outlined in a document published by 51m, the cross-party alliance of 18 local authorities opposing the controversial rail project.

In ‘Alternative Investment Strategy for Jobs and Growth’ 51m sets out in detail how the £50 billion cost for HS2’s track and trains could be better targeted to bring faster, higher value economic benefits across the entire country. To read the full statement click here 51m statement