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Chambers urge chancellor to commit to HS2 Eastern Leg

Businesses have urged the chancellor to confirm the government’s commitments to the HS2 Eastern Leg, as he outlined plans to ensure Britain has world class infrastructure to maintain the country’s competitiveness at the Conservative Party Conference.

The chief executives of the chambers of commerce in the East Midlands, the North East, Leeds, Sheffield and Barnsley and Rotherham wrote to Philip Hammond urging him to promise a speedy delivery of the route.

The Eastern Leg will run between Birmingham and Leeds, via Sheffield and the East Midlands, and then north to Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Chris Hobson, director of policy at the East Midlands chamber of commerce, said: “The letter makes clear to Mr Hammond that businesses along the route of the HS2 Eastern Leg are united in wanting this major infrastructure development to go ahead.

“The economic benefits have been clearly identified and we don’t want to see the East Midlands and other parts of the country on the Eastern Leg route miss out on this opportunity for growth.

“It is vital that government confirms its commitment to HS2 Eastern Leg and, just as importantly, the location of the station hubs, so that linked infrastructure projects can be planned for cohesive and concurrent development.”

The chambers, representing 11,000 businesses, said it is estimated HS2 will deliver a £4.1bn boost for the region.

Their letter says HS2 is “a key tenet” of a “vision for a successful UK outside of the European Union”. The businesses stated that that they are “fully committed” to the opportunities HS2 offers and said that plans are being developed to improve connectivity within regions, in order to ensure that areas outside city centres also experience the benefits of HS2.

A recent report from the Public Accounts Committee found that HS2 has still failed to provide a clear completion date for phase 1 of the project or a cost for phase 2.

Andrew Tyrie MP, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, has also warned transport secretary Chris Grayling that HS2 “has the weakest economic case of all the projects within the infrastructure programme”.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, the head of the civil service, is currently conducting a review of HS2 to try to ensure it stays within its £55bn budget, including saving £1bn by moving its Sheffield stop from Sheffield Midland to Sheffield Meadowhall.

Clive Heaphy, HS2’s director of finance and operations, has admitted that HS2 is “worried” about the long-term impact of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

However, since the referendum, both Grayling and new prime minister Theresa May have stressed the government’s ongoing commitment to HS2.

During his speech at the Conservative Party Conference, Hammond said he is committed to putting the National Infrastructure Commission “at the very heart of our plans to renew and expand Britain’s infrastructure”.

While the chancellor did not mention HS2, he said: “Ensuring we have world class infrastructure is vital to maintaining our competitiveness, but it is a very long-term agenda.”

He also pledged the Treasury’s support to continue driving the Northern Powerhouse project, but added the government’s ambition was not just limited to the north.

“We want to create the conditions for success in the north, the south, and everywhere in between,” he said, adding that the Midlands Engine will also be a key part of the Conservative’s strategy going forward.

(Image c. HS2)

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Lutz   04/10/2016 at 12:30

I am increasingly of the opinion that the Eastern leg of the HS2 program should be put on hold until the ability to, and the availability of funding have been clarified, plus the cost benefits have been fully reviewed against realistic expectations. As it stands I do not think the eastern leg would achieve the purported benefits, not are the costs adequately defined.

John Burns   04/10/2016 at 14:13

There is no need to build the eastern leg of the HS2 "Y". A problem is the bottlenecks on the existing mainlines reducing capacity, speed and frequency of long distance services on those lines. New high speed lines do not solve those problems. HS2 does not serve the towns and cities that are bypassed. A new high speed line, whose tickets will be significantly more expensive than alternative routes that serve the towns and cities bypassed by HS2, will simply not attract sufficient passengers. There is no business case for HS2 that stands up to scrutiny. On the East Coast Main Line (ECML) the bottlenecks are at: -The section track at Welwyn North over the Digswell Viaduct and through the Welwyn tunnels. This has been recognised for decades as a problem and could be solved at a fraction of the cost of HS2 and deliver a far greater return on the investment. - Between Huntingdon and Peterborough. - Just north of Newark station at the Nottingham to Lincoln Line. - The section of track between Stoke Tunnel and Doncaster. - The north throat of York station including the Skelton Bridge Junction. - South of Newcastle to Northallerton. We should be investing in getting rid of these bottlenecks starting with the Welwyn bottleneck. Then run trains at up to 160mph on the line. Then Leeds.170 miles from London is accessed at about the same journey time as HS2 from London. Upgrading the MML will give similar results.

John Burns   04/10/2016 at 14:15

The existing lines can take more traffic if the major bottlenecks were removed. Building a new high speed line the length of the country, with stops in the major cities will not alleviate any congestion. A lot of long distance traffic comes and goes from towns and cities that will not be on HS2. There is a very real need for the long distance services, that many think will no longer be needed, to be continued on the existing lines after HS2 is built. E.G., on an average weekday there are 24 trains per day travelling from Milton Keynes Central to Manchester and other destinations along the way, with a journey time of 1 hr 38 mins. All those long distance fast trains will still be required on the existing network after HS2 is completed. HS2 will not reduce congestion on the existing network or create capacity for more freight or local stopping services at all. If there was any reduction in the frequency or the speed of long distance trains on the existing network, it would result in a sharp reduction in the quality of the service. In effect we would be spending billions for a worse service overall than exists now.

PB   04/10/2016 at 16:39

"...including saving £1bn by moving its Sheffield stop from Sheffield Midland to Sheffield Meadowhall." Wrong way round, surely?

Al Green   04/10/2016 at 18:29

John Burns said "E.G., on an average weekday there are 24 trains per day travelling from Milton Keynes Central to Manchester and other destinations along the way, with a journey time of 1 hr 38 mins. " No there aren't. There are 18 tpd on weekdays.

Graham Nalty   04/10/2016 at 21:13

HS2 will not benefit the East Midlands unless the parkway stations are removed as this make it easy for skilled people to commute out of the cities, but make it very difficult for people to reach the city centres. Sheffield Midlands needs to be a key interchange on the HS2 route and Nottingham needs fast classic-compatible trains to and from Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and London. Work by Volterra shows that you lose two thirds of all possible jobs in the cities and surrounding towns if these cities do not have city centre stations.

Chris M   05/10/2016 at 03:01

John Burns, spare us your infantile daydream that trains can run on the twisty classic MML at 160mph (you claimed 186mph last week). The radius of the curves is such that trains would derail in many locations - and there is point spending £billions to meddle with ancient Victorian infrastructure, New build is the only sensible answer, absolutely no-one (even the anti-HS2 protesters) think trains can go any faster on existing rails. We are in the 21st century, HS2 is the modern solution to 21st century needs.

Chris M   05/10/2016 at 03:12

Raising top speeds much above 125mph on our existing railways would be an incredibly pointless exercise even if it were possible. The capacity problems we face today are almost entirely due to the huge speed differentials between 125mph express trains. local stoppers and 60-75mph freight with slow acceleration. Mixed traffic railways are deeply inefficient, as are single lane A roads. There is only one way to solve this conundrum - that is to remove the express trains altogether from the classic tracks. Which is precisely what HS2 does. The virulent antis and other luddite types cannot grasp this, but it is recognised by railway experts the world over - which is why 1000s of kilometres of new HS track is being built every year. No-where on earth is anyone trying to build a replica of a 19th century railway. It is hard to believe anyone would actually advocate something so senseless. It just goes to show that the great British eccentric is thriving.

Noam Bleicher   05/10/2016 at 09:25

What Chris said. Plus, removing the faster classic services from the ECML and WCML will allow many more semi-fasts to run, which will be transformational for towns like Rugby and Stevenage where many trains currently don't stop.

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