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13.12.13

Build both sections of HS2 at the same time, say MPs

HS2 is essential to the UK’s future, the transport select committee has stated, in an important show of support for the project.

The MPs called for work on the second phase of HS2 to begin sooner, with “serious thought” needed on building both sections at the same time. Currently the first phase, London-Birmingham, is due to be complete in 2026 and the second Y-shaped extension to Manchester and Leeds in 2032/33.

There was also an urgent need for clarity on costs, the committee found. The official cost includes funding for new trains, as well as £14.56bn contingency – but this is often missing from the wider debate on the project.

The committee said: “The Department for Transport's communications about HS2 should emphasise that the estimated cost is £28bn, not £50bn, and that cost increases to date have largely been due to the decision to undertake more tunnelling and other work to mitigate the impact of the project on people living near the route.

“The project is now commonly regarded as costing £50bn and rising. This has led to exaggerated references to HS2 requiring a 'blank cheque' from government.”

The report also raises concerns about how Heathrow would be incorporated into phase 1 and how this would affect costs. Further evidence is needed on the wider economic benefits of HS2, the MPs added.

Committee chair Louise Ellman MP said: “We remain confident that construction of a new high speed line is the only way to deliver the step change in capacity on the West Coast Main Line needed to accommodate long-term demand for both passengers and rail freight.

“If we are to spread the benefits from HS2 as widely as possible, it is vital we improve links between the conventional and high-speed networks and bring forward projects to speed up journey times on the conventional network.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin welcomed the committee’s support and said that alternative proposals to HS2 “would simply not cope with the predicted increase in demand”.

But Joe Rukin, campaign manager for the Stop HS2 group, said: “Despite the official cost of HS2 standing at £50bn, the committee want to pretend it is £28bn, even though they said it would be £34bn in 2011.

“In saying this and telling the DfT they should abandon their standard assessments to improve the case for HS2, they are effectively ordering the government to 'spin harder' on HS2.”

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: “Labour supports HS2 because we must address the capacity problems that mean thousands of commuters face cramped, miserable journeys into Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London.

“However, three years of government delays and mismanagement has caused costs to balloon.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Image c. HS2 Ltd

Comments

Ampox   13/12/2013 at 12:39

Where will the skilled workers come from to build the lines? Why is the railway industry not doing more in schools to advertise the exciting prospects of working in an industry whose benefits to society can be seen all around us? Railways are about science AND engineering.

RTM   13/12/2013 at 14:04

Funny you should say that, as RTM's charity, the UK Rail Industry Training Trust, is launching a series of events to do just that. Find out more here: http://www.railtechnologymagazine.com/ukritt/genyrail

Rupert Le Bere   13/12/2013 at 15:41

If the government and rail industry are going to win hearts and minds with this project, they need to start shouting from the rooftops the real cost of this scheme in a manner that can be understood by the public, what is included and what is not. The press are only to happy to publish the mis-information being put out by the anti HS2 lobby and ultimately, it will (like it or not) be the voters that make the final decision through the ballot box at the next election

Martin Hogan   13/12/2013 at 16:00

Again, politicians are thinking that bigger and faster is better. The capacity problem will remain because of the limited number of stop for HS2, it is also missing the major problem that the UK has built cities that are not fit for purpose and there is an endless need to commute short distances, instead of living near where you work. If you want to travel anywhere but London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, these stations will be useless. On top of that, for some of the cities, the new stations will be further than the local airports, so they don't actually get to the town named. Those using current stations will have to be entirely rebuilt and redesigned, causing monumental disruption and if the errors or the old stations are repeated, the new will be just as bad for commuters. What a mess, the MPs are clearly being paid by the rail companies or are just obsessed with legacy projects

Jb   14/12/2013 at 00:09

For goodness sake, let's increase our rail system capacity by restoring the classic network where it was abandoned in the late 60s before embarking on this hugely expensive project which will be of limited, if any, benefit to most travellers. Cannot the ex MR and GC routes to the North could be reinstated at a fraction of the cost and disruption of this project with quicker returns on the capital expended? The money saved could be spent on reconnecting lines which should never have been truncated - such as Skipton to Colne and Northallerton to Harrogate (giving the City of Ripon back its station) routes, etc. Also, lets see a concerted effort to get more long distance traffic off the roads and onto rail to reduce these train-loads of HGVs on our motorways.

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