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HS2 conference to get beleaguered project back on track

Senior leaders from across the rail industry and beyond set out the case for HS2 at a conference in Birmingham yesterday, with Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins saying the new line was “essential”.

Speakers at the event at Birmingham Science Museum also included HS2 Growth Task Force chairman Lord Deighton, Rupert Walker of Network Rail, Steve Scrimshaw of Siemens, Geoff Inskip from Centro, HS2’s Laura Webster, Kent County Council’s rail planner Stephen Gasche, and LCR chief executive David Joy, who explained the ‘lessons from Kent’ of HS1. 

Maggie Simpson, executive director of the Rail Freight Group, and Susan Williams of Manchester Airport also backed the scheme, alongside Birmingham City Council chief executive Stephen Hughes and Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese. 

Greengauge 21, the pro-HS2 think tank that hosted the event, said it wanted to “transform any lingering perception that HS2 is of limited, narrow benefit. It isn’t: its beneficial effects extend right across the national rail network. Its impact on the economies of all of the cities and regions it serves will be highly beneficial – both locally, and ultimately, to the national economy and exchequer.” 

It was sponsored by the HSR Industry Leaders Group, a group of businesses backing the rail project in the hopes it will bring economic growth regionally and nationally. 

Speaking after the event, Higgins said: “We’re pushing the existing infrastructure way beyond what it was ever designed for.” 

HS2 has suffered a number of setbacks this summer, with a number of reports questioning its cost and value, including from the Institute of Director, Institute of Economic Affairs, and the Commons Public Accounts Committee. The main campaign against the line, led by householders in areas it will run through, said opposition has never been so high. 

But Jim Steer of Greengauge said some of those opposed to HS2 hadn’t properly considered its potential benefits. Even motorists who don’t use the railways would benefit, he said, as HS2 would help get lorries off the roads by freeing up rail freight capacity. He said: “There are an awful lot of benefits of HS2 that have not, I think, been grasped.” 

The legislation to move forward with HS2 is expected to come before Parliament later this year. 

Subjects tackled at the conference yesterday included:

  • The wider network effects beyond the new infrastructure itself
  • The reuse of liberated capacity after Phase 1 and Phase 2
  • The wider implications on the national rail network and the potential for restructured train services to maximise benefits
  • The impact on jobs in the design, construction and operating phases
  • A new economic analysis of HS2: what difference will it make to the national economy?
  • Its benefits, region by region
  • Lessons from HS1
  • The impacts for Scotland and for the major English cities 

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


Pnjarvis   20/09/2013 at 13:47

As a bit of light relief on a small scale - perhaps a pilot for HS2? - a plan to put a railway through the heart of Snowdonia 25 years ago met a storm of protest. With meticulous planning, co-ordination of local support and judicious relief works to those affected by the line, the railway was eventually built and is now running to popular acclaim. But it took over 20 years. I note that there are MPs in favour of HS2 in the same party as those against - so it isn't a party political issue.

Mikeyb   20/09/2013 at 20:53

The board of HS2 Ltd were also in Liverpool yesterday (19th Sept) and, following a meeting with Mayor Joe Anderson, Peel Ports, Merseytravel and others, they have apparently promised to listen to representations from the Merseyside area in respect of a possible direct spur to Liverpool. We shall see!

Nonsuchmike   22/09/2013 at 15:27

It is obvious to all keen on reducing the number of massive lorries on roads that any HS2 up the NW corridor must include not only Liverpool, but also Glasgow. My only regret is that at £250 per pop I couldn't afford as a pensioner to attend the Conference on Thursday. Let's hope they don't stick with the "let's squeeze it all into an existing/expanded Euston station", but have the temerity to think outside the box and come in under Regent's Park, placing a new Euston between the existing one and St Pancras stations UNDERGROUND, so that it can link up the more easily with HS1.

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