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06.05.16

HS2 efficiency amendment fails to gain backing of Lords

Instructions designed to bring down the costs of HS2 and increase transparency were rejected by the House of Lords yesterday, despite a number of peers expressing misgivings about the scheme.

The instruction was proposed as the House of Lords named their committee to consider the bill, chaired by crossbench peer Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe.

The Bill came under attack from a number of peers, with Liberal Democrat peer Lord Bradshaw proposing a recommendation that the committee appoint a technical expert to “get under” HS2’s estimated costs.

Lord Bradshaw said: “Since we had the debate in the House, real misgivings about the cost of this scheme have ​emanated from the Cabinet Office, and I believe the need for economy is very strong. I say that as someone who has a lot of experience with these things.”

It was revealed this week that the government has appointed Sir Jeremy Heywood, the head of the civil service, to review ways HS2 can stay within its £55bn budget.

Lord Bradshaw said issues to be considered included whether Old Oak Common should be the phase 1 terminal to allow more time to sort out complaints about the cost and disruption at Camden, and whether the committee should start their evaluation of HS2 at the Birmingham end instead of the London end.

He also said that HS2’s proposals to use rolling stock which is incompatible with the rest of the rail network and capable of going at up to 225mph “should be challenged very strongly”.

Labour’s Lord Berkeley proposed an instruction making it compulsory for the committee to publish evidence, citing accusations in the recent Bynoe report that HS2 is failing to engage with communities and saying that the secrecy could lead to “a slippery slope” where other House of Lords hearings are held without accountability.

Lord Laming, the House of Lords’ chairman of committees, replied that the committee could not appoint a technical expert because their evidence would have to be given in secret, that it is standard practice for House of Lords’ committees to be given discretion on whether to publish evidence, and that “it would not be appropriate” to instruct the committee to focus particularly on savings.

The House of Lords decided not to implement the recommendations.

Peers, including Lord Bradshaw, also discussed proposals to increase competition in railway franchising on Wednesday.

The rest of the HS2 committee are:

  • Lord Brabazon of Tara (Conservative)
  • Lord Freeman (Conservative)
  • Lord Jones of Cheltenham (Liberal Democrat)
  • Baroness O’Cathain (Conservative)
  • Lord Plant of Highfield (Labour)
  • Lord Young of Norwood Green (Labour)

(Image c. HS2)

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Comments

Huguenot   06/05/2016 at 12:20

1. HS2 must not back down from the 225mph maximum speed. (In fact, design is to be for 250mph max in the future.) Just think if we hadn't gone for 125mph HSTs in the 1970s but had decided to save a few pennies by limiting them to, say, 110mph. What would we say now? 2. What's wrong with a mixture of 'captive' and 'classic-compatible' trains? As the HS2 network becomes extended to Leeds and Manchester so the 'captive' trains with Continental gauge (and therefore more room) will be able to cover more mileage. Delivery of the rolling stock just needs to be tailored to each phase. 3. Getting HS2 going from Old Oak Common as an interim measure is a good idea, enabling the new line to 'bed in' and gaining experience of operations. However, this should be done to enable trains to start running a year early, not to delay Euston beyond the planned opening date.

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