Less expensive options?

Sounds familiar? One could ask the same for our regional transit planning.

HS2: Government has no ‘convincing case’ for A?50bn rail line

By Chris Johnston Business reporter

The government has no convincing case for spending A?50bn building the HS2 rail link between London and the North, a report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee says.

The government’s main arguments in favour of HS2 – increasing railway capacity and rebalancing the economy – were still to be proven, Peers said.

There are less-expensive options than HS2, they said on Wednesday.

A government spokesman said HS2 would deliver big benefits.

Lord Hollick, chairman of the Lords’ committee, said overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line was largely a problem on commuter trains and on long-distance services on Friday nights and some weekends.

“The Government have not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost-effective than HS2,” he said.

“In terms of rebalancing, London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2. Investment in improving rail links in the North of England might deliver much greater economic benefit at a fraction of the cost.”

‘Satisfactory answers’

Lord Hollick called on the Department for Transport to provide detailed answers to the questions set out by the committee.

“Parliament should not approve the enabling legislation that will allow HS2 work to begin until we have satisfactory answers to these key questions,” he said.

The peer sets out arguments against the investment in a YouTube video.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the case for HS2 was “crystal clear” and claimed it would have a “transformational effect”.

“It is a vital part of the government’s long-term economic plan, strongly supported by Northern and Midland cities, alongside our plans for better east-west rail links confirmed in the Northern Transport Strategy last week.

“Demand for long distance rail travel has doubled in the past 15 years… it is crucial we press ahead with delivering HS2 on time and budget and we remain on track to start construction in 2017,” the spokesman said.

‘No blank cheque’

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said that Labour supported HS2. However, he added: “It’s vital that ministers win public confidence for this important investment and ensure that the economic benefits are felt as widely as possible. We have said there will be no blank cheque for the project under Labour.”

Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, said a modern railway was needed to deal with lack of capacity on the West Coast Mainline.

“HS2 will better connect eight of our 10 biggest cities, boosting local economies along and beyond the route together with complementary road and rail investment. It’s vital we avoid any further delays to the project,” she said.

The Lords report echoed a similar report published by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in January.

The MPs said that ministers lacked a “clear strategic plan for the rail network” and were “sceptical” about whether HS2 would deliver value for money.

The A?50bn price tag included a “generous contingency” that could be used to mask cost increases, they added.

The first phase of HS2 will be between London and Birmingham opening in 2026, followed by a V-shaped section to Manchester and Yorkshire.

It promises to reduce journey times to London from 81 minutes to 49 minutes, and slash the trip to Manchester by an hour to just 68 minutes.


One Response to “Less expensive options?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I know a little about this already, the HS2 proposal is expensive however, it is expensive because they are talking about rebuilding more than 400 km of main line and many branch lines, and service yards as well, most date from the 19th century Victorian railways in their basic design. Which means that, it has many curves and places were speed and reliability are compromised by design. The HS2 plan proposes all new support technology and completely, COMPLETELY rebuilt rail infrastructure from the base of the right of way up to every bridge and culvert along the way. Purchasing no less than 15,000 pieces of property to straighten out every line so that most of it is so arrow strait, so as little as possible speed loss will occur. You can make it cheaper but you will loose the effect of the true high speed nature they want. The current new HS lines all built between the 1990′s till now have compromises in their designs that, have significant slowed train speeds. Every Billion you drop in cost drops speed and reliability. I say in this case, this one case only, go for broke boys! There will be so many design constraints anyway that will pop up during the construction and final design of these projects that if you put too many in the actual design you wont get the desired effect at all.

    Zwei replies: The two railway routes that could accommodate HS2, would be Brunell’s GWR Broad Gauge lines and the Great Central. The Broad gauge lines saw 125 mph speeds in the late 60′s and the GCR was torn up under Beeching.

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