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30.10.13

Rail professionals back HS2

The industry has responded to the government’s new business case for HS2, its fifth, which revised the cost value benefits down to £2.30 return for every pound invested.

Many called for cross-party support for HS2, although Labour again reiterated that the project should not have “a blank cheque”.

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

“However, we cannot give a government that is mismanaging this, or any project, a blank cheque. Our message to David Cameron is clear: get a grip on this project, get control of the budget and get it back on track.”

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said the new business case provided more clarity on the key benefits of the line – not focusing unduly on speed, something which has been highly criticised by opponents.

She said: “We need a modern railway line to tackle the looming capacity crunch on the West Coast Main Line and the alternatives don’t stack up. We would urge politicians on both sides of the House to back this important project.”

The IMechE agreed that the new publication gave “welcome clarification”. Head of transport Philippa Oldham said: “HS2 provides the step change required to help to remove the bottlenecks in our transport infrastructure by increasing our capacity limits and helping to bridge the north-south divide.”

She added that upgrading the existing railways “is not an inexpensive alternative”, with reduced operating services, disruption and delay likely. “The upgrade of the West Coast Main Line will also only meet forecasted demand until the mid 2020s and we would then need to invest again in a new transport corridor,” she said.

UK rail sector director at WSP, Dave Darnell, also said that alternative upgrades to existing lines would incur “chaos” for “much less benefit”. He said: “HS2 will give us more capacity not only for extra journeys but also flexibility to strengthen this vital asset without widespread disruption.”

ATOC’s Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “There is a capacity challenge not just on the West Coast Main Line, but on the railway more generally. That is why we must plan for a network which can move more people and freight across the country safely, reliably and efficiently.”

But Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “As we expected, the government has pulled some random figures out of the air in a desperate attempt to con the public.”

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

Image c. DfT

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