THERE has been recent correspondence in this letters page concerning HS2. In that context I found the following news item to be both relevant and interesting. It is an extract from the BBC news website. I also note from a recent report in the FT that HS2 is now forecast to incur a £30 billion cost overrun over and above the presently announced £56 billion.

In essence the BBC news article reports (and I quote): “Political clashes over the project for a railway between the Italian city of Turin and French city of Lyon led (Italian) PM Giuseppe Conte to put tenders on hold in March. The multibillion-euro TAV (Treno Alta Velocità) link involves digging a 58km (36-mile) tunnel through the Alps. It is bitterly opposed by Five Star on environmental and cost grounds. The League argues that it would create jobs and stimulate economic growth, and that moving freight from road to rail is environmentally friendly.

Supporters of the project say it would halve the travel time between the two cities to just two hours. The tunnel would also make it possible to travel from Paris to Milan in around four hours, down from nearly seven. The project was launched 20 years ago and part of it has already been dug. It is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Costs were initially projected to hit €8.6bn (£7.4bn), but Italy’s Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli – a Five Star member – put the price tag at over €20bn.”

Bearing in mind the fact that this proposed rail link will involve 36 miles of tunnelling through the Alps and will be approximately 185 miles long (the same as the distance from London to Manchester) it is forecast to cost a relatively modest €20 billion (about £18 billion at current £/€ exchange rates.) So the question that has to be asked is why is HS2 presently forecast to cost the UK taxpayer £86 billion – almost five times as much – and still rising? Are HS2 plc building a 185 mile long tunnel that we are unaware of ?

John McDonald, Carini, Italy (formerly of Knutsford).