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29.10.13

Government presses for HS2 with new business case

The Government is presenting its fifth official business case for HS2 today, determined to keep the project on track and to ensure the argument centres on capacity and north-south links.

Early reports suggest the revised cost-benefit ratio will be around 1:2, meaning £2 of benefits for every £1 invested in the project.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin is expected to say at a conference in Manchester today: “Britain has shown it can build great infrastructure like HS1 or the Olympics on time and on budget.”

And he plans to hit out at Labour, which is wavering in its support for the project, saying: “Let me say something very direct to those in the opposition who have learnt nothing from the past. You can't say one day you back better infrastructure only the next threaten to stop it being built. You can't go on claiming to want one nation if you won't back the things that will bring it together.”

He will note that Labour leaders of cities in northern England all back HS2. “They know that any threat to the new line is also a threat to the future of the north and the Midlands, to the Britain beyond London where I grew up – and live today.”

McLoughlin is also expected to highlight the results of a new Network Rail / Atkins report on the ‘best alternative’ to HS2 in terms of upgrading the existing network, which would cost much less – £20bn – but involve much more disruption to passengers over years. The report estimates 144,000 hours of work and 2,770 weekend closures, over the WCML, ECML and MML.

But HS2 Action Alliance director Hilary Wharf said: “This Government-funded report is a complete fabrication. The main alternative to HS2 involves longer trains and reduced first-class capacity to provide more standard class seats.

“No work is required at Euston to deliver the necessary capacity increase. Work is only required at three locations on the WCML, and this is comparable to the work being carried out on the route at present.”

Later this week, MPs will vote on the ‘Paving Bill’ to authorise money for the project before the full legislation is debated in spring next year.

The DfT is also due to begin a formal consultation on a mooted third phase of HS2, reaching Scotland, following an initial scoping study last year.

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

(Library image of Patrick McLoughlin and David Cameron: Stefan Wermuth/PA Wire)

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