HS2 could be delivered by 2030 without ‘cash constraints’ – Higgins

HS2’s phase 2b could be completed three years earlier if the company’s hands were not tied by cash constraints, its chair told MPs at the Transport Select Committee yesterday.

During an inquiry about the high-speed project, Sir David Higgins reiterated that the last stretch of the project will be delivered by 2033, as previously confirmed by the DfT when the phase 2 route was announced in November.

But he argued that the delivery date could be brought forward to 2030 if there were no “cash constraints” around the project.

Sir David indicated that he supported more funding to deliver the project faster, saying that “if you can deliver it quicker, you should be able to reduce the overheads”. The Public Accounts Committee recently criticised HS2 for a lack of clarity over the project’s timetable, with the opening of phase 1 set to be postponed from 2026 to 2027.

When asked about other key dates for more information about HS2, Sir David replied that the timetable should not be expected until 2020 “at the very earliest”. However, he said the government would publish a strategy with recommendations for an HS2 hub at Crewe, including new opportunities for delivering jobs and housing, in 2017.

He also confirmed that a shortlist of potential candidates for HS2 Ltd’s top job, freed up after Simon Kirby took up a position at Rolls-Royce, will be in place by the middle of next year. A potential bonus could be offered to the next candidate to incentivise them to stay in the public sector.

Discussing HS2 works set to take place next year, Sir David indicated that the initial engineering works could lead to disrupted services next Christmas, but promised that steps are being taken to mitigate this.

MPs asked Sir David Higgins about the risk that the upgrade works at Euston could cause extensive disruption, similar to the problems seen at London Bridge last year.

Sir David replied that the “incredibly complex” nature of the work at Euston meant that service cancellations were expected from Christmas 2017. But he added that HS2, in partnership with Network Rail and TOCs, was looking at engineering solutions to reduce the impact.

“There is a base case that Network Rail and the train operating companies are fully aware of in the timetable,” Sir David said. “It’s disruptive, and it starts to happen at the earliest end of next year, but we’re very much hoping that we can come up with an engineering solution that will mitigate a lot of that disruption.”

The HS2 boss told the MPs to expect information about the disruptions at least 12 weeks before they are due to start, but that HS2 would try to provide “greater clarity” within four or five months.

He added that the development programme would be “slightly longer” because the developments had been “separated out” as the HS2 legislation went through Parliament to reduce the disruption.

Sheffield station and rolling stock procurement

Sir David also defended HS2’s decision to introduce a spur to Sheffield Midland, instead of stopping at Meadowhall as originally planned, although the final decision was not included in the recent HS2 phase 2 route plan.

He admitted that local councils and businesses had been opposed to the Meadowhall option, but argued that putting a high-speed route directly through Sheffield wouldn’t be practical because of flooding. Sir David also denied that the new route was disruptive because it would require passengers to change trains, saying that it offered a more efficient service overall.

He then described HS2’s hopes for rolling stock procurement as including “interesting submissions” for on-board monitor equipment which currently cannot work at 200mph. HS2 would also “force through” decisions on customer service requirements, which would affect areas such as food provision at stations as well as on trains, in the next few years.

Sir David suggested that HS2’s preference was for the government to directly procure the first stage of rolling stock, but “keep completely open” the option to use an external funding vehicle to procure the second stage.

He also argued it was “probably logical” to have different operating contracts for different phases of HS2 from 2030, given the cost risks of having a single operator for the whole route.

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Graham Nalty   13/12/2016 at 14:56

HS2 needs to serve Sheffield city centre and not bypass it. This is what all other countries with high speed rail do – they serve the centres of large cities. This is what the local stakeholders want. By bypassing Sheffield with the new route, HS2 Ltd. are seriously damaging the Northern Powerhouse and putting the benefits to London ahead of the economies of Northern cities. If Sir David Higgins is not prepared to listen to Stakeholders’ aspirations, is it really building HS2 at all? I do not buy the idea that flooding will prevent the line being built through Sheffield Midland. Euston Express can build all the HS2 platforms plus the WCML platforms in the footprint of the present Euston station, something which HS2 Ltd. are not capable. And Euston express can do it at less cost. Surely Sheffield City Council and Chamber of Commerce should decide how HS2 serves Sheffield, not a London based organization that puts the needs of commuters to London at the expense of connectivity between cities in the Northern Powerhouse.

Banklineman   13/12/2016 at 21:46

I'm of the opinion Sheffield City Council have been sold a pup with the promise of a route via Sheffield Midland,yes the Midland station as flooded twice in past 50years. The alignment into Victoria as no such problems and that was the councils first choice and recommended by their consultants.Sheffield City Council along with city business leaders should not settle for second best. Chairman Higgins is prepared to spend billions tunnelling under Crewe and the suberbs of south Manchester to reach the stop blocks in Piccadilly. Manchester should have east west station located under either Piccadilly or Victoria.

Boltonwomble   13/12/2016 at 22:55

Government procurement of rolling stock doesn't work....and what's the point of the west coast partnership if they are?

Burt   16/02/2017 at 09:32

HS2 have let the whole of South Yorkshire down. This is a far worse proposal than Meadowhall. What the people of Sheffield wanted was a hs2 station in the centre of Sheffield - either tunnelled into Midland or Victoria. No one wants this pathetic option - how is this listening to the people - disgraceful hs2

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