High Speed 2 is a “grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money” that will see “great tracts of concrete laid across the countryside”, Jeremy Paxman has said.
Writing in the Financial Times, the former Newsnight presenter likened the project to Nazi Germany’s expansion of the autobahns in the 1930s.
He said: “How on earth are we even contemplating this scheme?
“Perhaps now it has untrammelled power, the Conservative Party will jettison this Labour Party project, which was anyway based on not much more than back-of-an-envelope calculations.”
Mr Paxman, who lives “some 10 miles from the proposed line”, said the £50bn (with contingency) project was “hugely costly” and added that “cost controls on public spending projects such as this were laughable”.
“Overlook the fact that the Welsh Assembly building came in 300 per cent above budget and the Scottish parliament almost 10 times more expensive than the original estimate,” he said.
“The first high-speed rail link, from London to the Kent coast, cost one-third more than its initially projected cost, the Channel Tunnel almost twice as much as expected, and for heaven’s sake don’t mention the ill-fated National Health Service IT project.
“But let us play Fantasy Railways and assume for a moment that cost is no object.
“At the end of years of digging and disruption (I live some 10 miles from the proposed line) we shall have a railway service that enables us to get from London to Birmingham 30-odd minutes quicker.
“This will, apparently, make the country much more efficient.”