The cost of the high-speed rail project, HS2, could set the taxpayer back over £80 billion, according to a free-market think tank.

Officials at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) explained that the figures were almost double the £42.6 billion that is the current estimate of the development. The think tank stated that the extra cost is expected to come from local councils lobbying for additional infrastructure and design changes. It is yet another obstacle in the successful creation of the rail network which is aimed at significantly reducing journey times across the UK.

There has been a number of objections to the creation of HS2 with many opponents stating that the scheme will cause a substantial amount of environmental damage. Due to the proposed route many people believe that will lead to a number of residents having to be relocated or risk their property being subject to loss. However, the backers of HS2 claim it will provide an "economic asset" and be of significant value to the country.

IEA officials noted that the estimated extra costs could run into around £30 billion which includes "contingency" money. This capital is expected to be needed as the route is changed to keep residents happy while also including new road links, tram lines as well as extra tunnels and regeneration schemes around the new stations.

Dr Richard Wellings, author of the IEA's report, said: "It's shameful that at a time of such financial difficulty for many families, the government is caving in to lobbying from businesses, local councils and self-interested politicians more concerned with winning votes than governing in the national interest."

The HS2 route will run from London Euston to Birmingham and then onto the likes of Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. It will include the the construction of new stations and allow trains to run at speeds of 250mph. The first section between London and the Midlands is due to be completed by 2026 while the northern part will come into effect from 2032.

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