Red tape and nimbyism blamed as vital projects ‘cost 850% more in UK than EU’

HS2: Parts of construction delayed for two years

Road and rail projects are reportedly costing as much as 850% more in the UK than they do in the European Union (EU).

Vital infrastructure schemes are costing Britain so much more than its European neighbours due to mountains of red tape, the excessive demands made by the planning system and nimby opposition, campaigners have claimed.  Researchers from campaign group  Britain Remade found that the UK is, on average, spending twice as much on the construction of new railways and a tenth more per mile on roads than seven in seven other countries. 

The study looked at and compared more than 200 different projects from Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and Norway.  It discovered that the HS2 rail link  – which will connect Manchester, Birmingham and London with high-speed trains – was costing Britain 8.5 times more than comparable European projects.

Read more… Fury as £100bn HS2 to become ‘the most expensive railway in world history’

Britain Remade is a new organisation campaigning to promote economic growth. It says it “puts forward practical solutions to the problems holding Britain back”.

Its website states: “Britain is a great country. Our science and engineering shaped the modern world. But our economy has stalled and we have fallen behind. British families are now around £13,500 worse off than the average American family and almost £6,000 worse off than the average German family. If we cannot turn it around, we’re set to be overtaken by Poland within a decade.”

Britain Remade’s head of policy Sam Dumitriu said Britain could also bring infrastructure costs down by reducing the use of features such as tunnels, viaducts and bridges  – using more standardised designs.

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HS2 will 'suck money' from transport projects says expert

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He said: “When Britain builds infrastructure, whether that is railways, underground systems, trams or roads, we tend to pay more – a lot more in some cases – than other countries in Europe.

“Why is that? One reason is that we give too much power to people objecting to projects and end up in a situation where schemes are gold-plated.

“Another is that we don’t use ‘off the shelf’ designs as much as we should do. And the planning system requires contractors to do huge amounts of work.”

Britain Remade highlighted how France built 21 new tram systems in the past quarter of a century, while the UK has only finished a handful.  It said tramways in France ranged from as little as £29m per mile in Besançon in 2014 to as much as £60m per mile in Orleans in 2012. 

However, the UK’s cheapest new tram system is the second phase of Nottingham’s tramway – which cost £66m per mile. And a new tramway in Manchester cost £252m per mile.


In Spain, an 81-mile subway network in Madrid cost just £68m per mile. However,  London’s new Elizabeth Line was “one of the world’s most expensive metro systems”, said Dumitriu, at £1.4bn per mile. A recent extension of the Northern Line to Battersea was less expensive but still cost £743m per mile, and £1.5bn in total.

And the first phase of HS2 will also cost at least £396m per mile, and a total of £53.1b. A similar high-speed rail link in France, between Paris and Strasbourg, cost just £31m per mile when adjusted for inflation.

New road schemes have also proven far more costly in the UK.   The Lower Thames Crossing scheme – which is yet to be granted planning consent – aims to tunnel under the Thames in a bid to improve transport links between Essex and Kent.

The scheme is expected to cost £9bn – around £700m per mile.  By comparison, the world’s longest road tunnel – Norway’s Laerdal tunnel – only £9m per mile, added Dumitriu

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