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Higgins urges HS2 link with HS1 to be scrapped

HS2’s new chairman Sir David Higgins has called for work to be accelerated on the high-speed line in an attempt to complete the first phase of the project six years ahead of schedule.

The former head of Network Rail, who recently came on board at HS2, is today publishing his report, ‘HS2 Plus’, which outlines plans to reduce the cost of the £50bn initiative.

RTM’s reporter David Stevenson is at the launch in Manchester.

In his report, Sir David has advised ministers to speed up construction on the second phase of the project to bring earlier benefits to the north. As part of a revised timetable, he would like to see a transport hub opened in Crewe by 2027 – connecting the line with the rest of the north west.

Plans to bring forward construction to Crewe would, however, potentially cut the overall budget of £50bn, including contingencies and trains for the line, as finishing work earlier should trim costs.

Speaking to the media, Sir David said: “The construction work of the first phase is due to finish in in Birmingham, but I believe we should take this onto Crewe as part of the same phase. This is because the route between the two is smaller, cheaper and easier to complete within the timescale in connecting the north to the south.

“This project is a huge challenge, but it is crucial to the nation. I am really passionate about rebalancing the economy and enhancing regeneration. In the past, I have learnt that transport is a key to delivering this as it brings jobs to areas which, in turn, help lead to stronger economies.”

Within HS2 Plus, the chairman has stated that the remaining links to Manchester and Leeds could then be completed as early as 2030, bringing the completion date for the whole project forward by three years, thus cutting costs and contingencies.

The former London Olympics chief added that the infrastructure project is “vital for the future of the country”.

He also recommends postponing, indefinitely, the link from HS2 to the existing HS1 line, which runs from the Channel Tunnel to St Pancras station in London, saying: “The HS2 platforms at Euston will be a short distance from those at HS1, and one stop on the Underground. That is the equivalent of transferring from one terminal to another at Heathrow. I believe the Government should, therefore, consider whether the cost – at around £700m – is good value or whether it would be better to consider an alternative, which would deliver the benefits of a link without compromising existing services.”

He also rules out suggestions that HS2 could terminate at the new station to be built at Old Oak Common in north-west London, which will serve as an interchange for Crossrail. Instead he has suggested that Euston could be a site for the kind of regeneration seen in nearby St Pancras and King's Cross stations in London. Major redevelopment of Euston was initially planned, but the scale was downgraded by HS2 after local protests

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "HS2 is a vital part of our long-term economic plan. Not only will it link our northern cities and provide the extra space we need on our rail network, but it will provide and safeguard tens of thousands of jobs, giving people economic security for the future.

"Sir David Higgins' report supports this view and confirms that HS2 is the right project at the right price. But he has also set us a challenge – HS2 can be better and delivered quicker."

Peter Sheppard, chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology Transport Sector, added that “politics aside”, the HS2 initiative will involve significant technical challenges that will make it one of the greatest British engineering feats of modern times.

Full reaction to the report and more from the launch here.

(Image taken from DfT documents, Crown copyright and database rights 2011 Ordnance Survey 10049190)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Nonsuchmike   18/03/2014 at 14:52

Yes, we need to bring HS2 planning and implementation forward. Yes, we need a multi centre approach for starting the work and expanding the network, not just: "Let's start from London and see how quickly we can get to Brum". Yes, we need to re-think the HS1/HS2 link. My personal option would be to go subterranean in London and have a Euston/St Pancras/HS1/2/CR2/Kings Cross super terminus/interchange. Yes, we need to speed up our thinking on this and wider projects as other countries are streaking ahead of UK - and I don't mean just China. France, Spain, eastern European and many Asian Countries are planning and working towards rolling out whole HS networks while we dither. Yes, it is vital to protect habitats and the countryside, but most of the route will be in tunnels, green tunnels or deep cuttings. There will of course be bridges and fly-overs, but if we can just tweak things so that BI airport, Heathrow and East Midlands are included as well as Manchester airport in the scheme of things (I didn't say they all have to be on route one), then the economic "miracle" which is promised will be more diversified around the regions and not concentrated in just four cities.

Mike Roebuck   21/03/2014 at 13:33

14 years to complete the line to Leeds and Manchester? I don't recall SNCF or DB requiring anywhere near as much time as that to complete any of their high speed lines. HS 2 should have multiple construction sites from the beginning, starting at each end and working out both ways from the middle too. We're already 30 years behind with Crossrail (see Paris); we don't need to be so far behind everyone who is building high speed lines. The extra capacity is already needed now. Delaying completion to 2030 (and that will no doubt also depend on the whims of future Governments) is just nonsense. Not linking it to HS1 is ridiculous, both in terms of the lack of availability of high speed passenger services from the North and Midlands to the Continent and denial of the possibility of running Continental gauge freight trains north of London. Mr. Higgins is on the right track, but he doesn't go far enough, quickly enough.

Nonsuchmike   21/03/2014 at 13:57

If Sir David means that the whole concept of linkage between HS2 and HS1 should be in his words "postponed indefinitely", then he clearly is the agent of the "cut spending at all costs" Tories and his opinion consigned to the lunatic fringe. If he means utilising the too-narrow northern corridor already in existence, then he will attract a lot of support as the consensus is surely now that a Subterranean Euston/St Pancras either between, north of, south of or wherever is to be preferred with onward links eventually to Stratford. As Mr Roebuck suggests, the better way to cut overall costs is for multisite starts with work radiating out towards each other. Why not have an overarching Super HS2 plan which will include ramifications to Stoke, Liverpool, Swindon/Gloucester for the SW and S Wales, but more especially for Tyneside and Scotland? Before we answer "Can't be done", just remind me how many thousand kilometres of HS track, complementing infrastructure and rolling stock China will build between 2010 and 2015.

Jb   22/03/2014 at 13:10

With St Pancras now the established terminus of HS1 it seems a ridiculous proposal to terminate a potential HS2 at Euston. It is incredible that a future passenger wishing to travel from Berlin to Birmingham by HS train will be expected to take a taxi/bus/tube or walk between the two London termini! If the controversial HS2 does proceed at all, is it not common sense to utilise the present railway lands north of St Pancras to allow through running as well as terminating trains?

Iaroboss   24/03/2014 at 12:07

Interesting that you reported at much the same time that Hitachi are hoping to export from their new north of England plant. If there is an HS2 - HS1 link with a suitable loading gauge, they would presumably be able to export to the rest of Europe using rail, rather than road or sea?

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