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Transport experts call for independent review of HS2 options

Alternatives to HS2 should be reconsidered, a group of travel experts have warned in a report saying the high-speed rail line could be five times as expensive as an equivalent railway in France.

According to research led by Professor Tony May from the University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies and transport consultant Jonathan Tyler, HS2 will cost £105m for each kilometre, whereas the TGV line from Tours to Bordeaux cost £20m.

The researchers also said HS2 would make rail connections to towns including Nottingham, Stockport and Wakefield worse, and push up carbon dioxide emissions, with a 3.5 minute shorter journey generating 23% more energy.

Professor May told BBC News: “What's needed is an independent, objective assessment of the alternatives.

“These would include a less damaging version of HS2, a better-connected new line from London and transport investment in the north rather than to the north.”

Sir Jeremy Heywood, cabinet secretary and head of the Civil Service, is currently conducting a review of how to keep HS2 within budget, which is rumoured to be looking at cutting the extension to Manchester as an option.

However, HS2 said the comparison to the Tours-Bordeaux line was not fair.

A spokesperson said: “The French section of track is not comparable. The French track has no new stations, it does not go through a dense built-up urban area, it does not have the tunnels that we are building on HS2 to protect the environment, and property prices are very low in comparison to the UK.

“The net result is that it is cheaper, but we will use joint ventures including continental firms with experience of building high-speed rail and this will drive down our costs.”

HS2’s contracts shortlists include consortia featuring some of the biggest firms in international rail.

Professor James Croll of University College London, told the BBC that HS2’s 240mph speed, which has led to warnings that it risks derailment, was “just vanity” and added “needlessly” to the costs, since the UK was too small to need it.

The HS2 Bill is currently going through a House of Lords select committee.

It has been criticised in reports by former Independent Police Complaints Commissioner Ian Bynoe and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee for problems in how it engages with communities.

(Image c. HS2 Ltd)

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Graham Nalty   27/05/2016 at 09:11

Designing HS2 for higher speeds where possible may be wise, but using the argument of possible future high speeds to justify a route that is far more expensive than necessary and does far more environmental damage is not sensible. This is an important distinction here. There are many other initial design assumptions underlying HS2 that are not right. Terminal stations in the largest cities where through stations would be cheaper to operate and build, and improve connectivity. The plans for parkway stations outside intermediate cities have been shown to severely limit job creation opportunities from HS2 in Sheffield, Stoke and Derby, a stark opposite of the aims of the Northern Powerhouse.

Neil Palmer   28/05/2016 at 07:27

Also the most sensible proposal to for Euston is still the underground Euston Cross, allowing through trains to Ashford (and maybe after no doubt around 20 years of faffing about on border inspection formalities, maybe even Europe).

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