The Transport Committee have questioned experts on the Government’s recent decision to scrap the Birmingham-to-Manchester sections of HS2.
The questions focused on whether the decision made economic sense and how the Government decided that the decision represented the best value-for-money option.
Speaking on capacity, Professor Andrew McNaughton, former technical director of HS2 until 2017, warned that without HS2 running past Birmingham, capacity would need to be curbed.
“We modelled on growth of two percent per year in the last decade however numbers on long distance travel far exceeded that, with growth of between five and six percent per year.
Covid bought us a few years, through to 2030 however, 2030 is now rapidly approaching and without HS2, capacity will have to be curbed.”
Changing passenger patterns was given as one of the reasons as to why HS2 Phase 2 should not go ahead, after the pandemic had altered commuter travel patterns, and the panel were asked how this affected the need for HS2 Phase 2.
Richard Bowker, former head of the Strategic Rail Authority said that it was hard to know whether or not numbers would return but that signs suggested that they were and the capacity issues on the line that HS2 would alleviate, would still be there, regardless of whether numbers returned post-pandemic.
With the cancellation of HS2, the government released funds for Network North. The committee asked whether the opportunities that Network North presented, could help.
Richard Morris, former managing director at Crossrail said on the new proposals;
“If we remember Beeching, there was no idea about social needs, lines were shut because they didn’t pay. And now we see that might have been a bit of a mistake. So, the social side of it is important.
You can do a cost benefit analysis of that and say, socially it is a good thing to do. So if we are going to put money into the north, we should look at the social aspect and say whether or not it is worth doing.”
The committee also probed the panel on issues with freight and the social and economic consequences of Phase 2’s cancellation.