You ‘Tweeted’ me for my “Thoughts on Chinese investment in HS2”, so here they are…
Much as I would like to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, age and experience has led me to accept that the North Pole is an unbelievably empty place and teeth have no value to anyone other than the person who grew them. That said, I am significantly more persuaded that there may have been some modicum of fact behind the legend of the former, or that some small value could be placed upon the latter, if only by a dental student, or tribal witchdoctor.
Which brings me to the weeks most unbelievable story, namely that the Chinese want to invest some of their new money on our high speed railway. Even the most optimistic of bean counters couldn’t persuade any right-minded investor to back the project, which is why so many ordinary taxpayers are so sceptical about it.
In fact HS2’s own accountants KPMG have already ruled out any direct investment by the Chinese on the project itself. Their Head of Infrastructure parried the idea thus… “This is about diplomacy, not High Speed 2. High Speed 2 faces a lot of challenges – approval by parliament, a sceptical public, how to reduce the cost of it, how ultimately the country pays for it – but the financing isn’t one of them.”
Worryingly, we are left with the question, “what exactly is behind the story?”
Could it be that China sees this as a golden opportunity to flog us plant and machinery, raw materials, Chinese technology and contractors? Or worse, do they see the freeing up of large tracts of formerly sacrosanct Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in some kind of post HS2 land grab?
Whatever the truth of it and I doubt we’ll get much of that from either the Chinese or Downing Street, you can be pretty certain of one thing. If the Chinese are interested in HS2, it isn’t because they want to do us a favour.