There are certainties in life. Death and taxes are the biggies. But there are a host of others: bad Dennis Skinner “jokes” at the Queen’s Speech. The dodgy wheel on whichever supermarket trolley you happen to select. And, of course, the ever-rising cost of HS2.
Already running some £20 billion over the original supposed budget, and with the final bill expect to grow still further, the Sunday Telegraph brings further bad news for taxpayers. Sir John Armitt, the so-called “infrastructure tsar”, tells the paper that it will cost an additional £43 billion in surrounding work to “make the most” of the central scheme.
Those actually footing the bill would be forgiven for wondering if it is HS2 which definitely makes the most of their money. All major state capital spending projects tend to overrun in time and cash, but this is a particularly vast project with a particularly big overspend. Now it appears to have riders attached to make it worth everyone’s while.
The higher that bill rises, the bigger the potential audience for a pledge to scrap it – an idea floated already by one leadership contender, and sure to be in the minds of others. That is a dangerous trajectory for any policy to be one.