Assessing the Costs and Benefits of High Speed 2

Assessing the Costs and Benefits of High Speed 2


Daniel Thomas, Department for Transport, Matthew Million, HS2 Ltd


HS2 is a proposed railway linking London, Manchester and Leeds. This summarises the latest HS2 Economic Case outlining how the challenges in appraising such a transformative scheme have been met and what further developments are being considered.


High Speed 2 is a proposed High Speed Railway in the UK linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The line is currently scheduled for delivery in three phases, Phase 1 between London and Birmingham by 2026, Phase 2a between Birmingham and Crewe by 2027 and Phase 2b which extends Phase 2a to Manchester and delivers a new route between Birmingham and Leeds.

The decision to proceed with HS2 is supported by a 5-part business case in accordance with Government Green Book Guidance, of which the Economic Case is one key element. The Economic Case attempts to assess the value for money of the core HS2 scheme as well as a number of strategic alternatives, and in doing so applies the Department’s WebTAG appraisal guidance in conducting cost benefit analysis.

HS2 is a transformative scheme which presents a number of unique challenges to the analytical framework outlined in WebTAG. There is significant inherent uncertainty associated with estimating the benefits and costs of a scheme which isn’t scheduled to be completed for another 17 years. HS2 leads to a step-change in journey times between the key cities in the UK, creating challenges for the traditional methods of calculating scheme benefits. Furthermore, the long lead time associated with the scheme, means that there are elements of the proposal which remain unconfirmed.

This paper presents a summary of the latest update to the Economic Case for HS2, published in November 2015, outlining how the challenges in appraising such a transformative scheme as noted above have been met. The unresolved issues associated with quantifying costs and benefits of such a large project are also discussed alongside some proposals for further developing the appraisal of HS2.


Association for European Transport