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Rail industry urges Government to push ahead with HS2

Posted by: Warren Drobac
21/01/2020
Industry News

Rail industry urges government to push ahead with HS2

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has asked for more data before making a decision on HS2 as it emerged the new high-speed rail link could cost £106bn.

A leaked Government report suggested the project could cost almost double from the £56bn expected in 2015. Grant Shapps said he has demanded more information about the scheme as the government prepares to decide whether to go ahead with the project. 

Shapps said the "massive decision" on whether to go ahead with HS2 "needs to be fact-based". He said he had told the report's author, Doug Oakervee: "Give me the facts, give me the data, give us the information so we can make a proper informed decision."

RELATED: NORTHERN BUSINESSES BACK HS2

The unpublished report, which was leaked to the Financial Times, said there was "considerable risk" that estimated costs could rise by another 20%.

"I've always approached this from a relatively neutral point of view and that information will help to inform a decision that is best for the whole country," Mr Shapps said. "We'll be making a final decision, along with the prime minister and the chancellor, on this very shortly."

A number of critics of HS2 have suggested scrapping the project and instead investing in more localised rail works. However, the Head of Network Rail Andrew Haines has warned against this.

Haines revealed that Network Rail had recently been asked by the government to assess what could happen in the event of the rail project’s second phase, north of Birmingham, being scrapped and its funding used for alternative upgrade work. 

RELATED: NEW DIESEL TRAINS SET TO TRANSFORM THE NORTH

“We did some work recently on just how much disruption you would need to do on the East Coast Main Line to do significant capacity improvements if you didn’t do HS2 phase two,” he said. “I think the timeframe for how long work would last was something absurd. It’s very easy to talk about alternatives to HS2 but the disruption of doing that would be great.”

Pro-HS2 voices have also aired concerns around the Government’s lack of investment in the project’s northern leg.

Haines said: “One of the things I find slightly disconcerting is that there is very little discussion broadly in the political chatter about the North, to talk about [introducing] longer trains. Every time there’s a voxpop it’s always about overcrowding. For the solution to overcrowding to be expensive, long-lead infrastructure projects by themselves seems to me to be counter-intuitive so we are encouraging the government to think about a mix of solutions.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham claimed the use of conventional lines in the North would be a "second-class option".

“It's the same old story,” he said. “London and the South gets whatever it wants, and it's all about penny-pinching in the North. I would say this to the Prime Minister and the Government today: this is your first big test of your commitment to the North of England and we're watching very closely. In my mind there's no justification at all for doing one thing between London and Birmingham, and doing something different in the North. If you're going to do it, do it properly. Don't do it by halves.”

RELATED: NORTHERN LEADERS DEMAND BUDGET BOOST FOR THE NORTH

The review said savings to the £106bn figure could be made by having the private sector contribute to funding HS2 stations, lowering specifications and improving the cost performance of the management.

It also stated that no other high-speed line in the world runs 18 trains per hour, and recommends reducing HS2's frequency to 14.

£8 billion has already been spent on the project. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to decide within weeks whether to go ahead with construction on the first phase of what would be Europe's largest infrastructure project. Full stories here, here & here.

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