Posts Tagged ‘HS2’

We’re happy to dig tunnels in London, but not to properly connect our northern cities

25/02/2016, 09:54:56 AM

by Joe Anderson

On Tuesday, while her Majesty the Queen was officially naming the new Crossrail line, I was in Parliament, speaking at the launch of a major new report making the case for Liverpool’s key rail infrastructure.

A report I commissioned by the think tank ResPublica, Ticket to Ride: How high speed rail for Liverpool can realise the Northern Powerhouse, makes the case for extending the proposed HS2 line into Liverpool City Centre. Most people I speak to are amazed to learn that it isn’t already scheduled to.

But it isn’t (it stops at Crewe). Ministers, worried about the allegation of profligacy surrounding HS2 have tried to rein-in project costs, meaning that sensible, evidence-based proposals to extend the line to Liverpool, or to run it into the centre of Sheffield, have been ruled out by the timorous souls at HS2 Limited.

The contrast with Crossrail is instructive. Here we have a tale of two projects. On the one hand, the £14 billion invested in Crossrail has attracted few hostile headlines in our London-based national newspapers. (The same people, no doubt, who will make use of the line?)

Yet the case for HS2 – the single most important infrastructure project in the country – and a vital new economic artery for our Northern conurbations – has to be fought and refought with irritating frequency from ill-informed naysayers.

So much so, that we are left making what I believe is a compelling and vital case even at the eleventh hour, just months before work on the line is due to commence.

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Labour’s back on track on HS2, but it should never have been off it

01/11/2013, 07:00:47 AM

by Kevin Meagher

A week ago Labour was going wobbly on its support for HS2, spying, it seemed, an opportunity to discomfort the government in its efforts in selling the case for the controversial scheme.

This followed warnings from shadow chancellor Ed Balls at last month’s party conference that there would be “no blank cheque” for the £42 billion project if costs escalated. Then there was the shadow cabinet reshuffle where the strongly pro-HS2 Shadow Transport Secretary Angela Eagle was moved to make way for the more sceptical Mary Creagh.

Yet last night the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill passed its third reading with a measly 11 Labour MPs voting against, a mixture of the hard left’s usual suspects and London nimbys like Frank Dobson. The flirtation with opposing HS2 is over. The centre of gravity in the parliamentary party is resolutely behind the project – especially as the North West sends the largest contingent. This matters. As Sky News reported yesterday:

“…up to 40 MPs turned up to a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s transport committee, which would usually only attract a handful of MPs, to express their anger [at creeping scepticism towards HS2]. Seventeen Labour MPs, many representing constituencies in the north, spoke out in support of HS2. Only two said anything against. Jack Straw, the former Cabinet minister, warned that he would bring a motion to the PLP if the party shifted its position.”

Now Ed Miliband is letting it be known he has asked Andrew Adonis, Labour’s last transport secretary and the man who got the ball rolling on HS2, to advise him on how to make the most of it.

This is pretty much inevitable. To have British politics divided between the pro-growth, pro-Keynesian, pro-North Tories and a Labour party seemingly committed to burnishing its credentials for fiscal hawkishness, even to the point of entrenching the south of England’s economic dominance by opposing HS2, is a paradox too far.

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HS2 should be shunted to the sidings

01/10/2013, 02:55:36 PM

by Rob Williams

The ill-conceived HS2 project loses more support by the day. The Public Accounts Committee recently published a report which says it is beset by spiralling costs, a lack of expertise and unrealistic delivery timetables. In the summer, Peter Mandelson and former Transport Secretary Alistair Darling argued that this is one infrastructure scheme that really deserves to hit the buffers.

Now, shadow treasury chief secretary Rachel Reeves, said Labour would cancel it “if we don’t think it’s good value for money and costs continue to rise”.

The economic case for HS2, always rather weak, gets worse by the week,. The cost of this already expensive project has been revealed to have gone up by £10 billion to £42 billion. And this excludes the actual trains to run on the line, which would add another £7 billion.

Perhaps this is why the government doesn’t talk too much about the Business Case for HS2 any more (it is now close to 1:1, which means, basically, that there is no benefit). And much of that benefit is based on the ridiculous assumption that business travellers do no work on trains.

So now Patrick McLoughlin says cutting 20 minutes off journey times between London and Birmingham is “almost irrelevant. It should always have been about capacity.” Well, yes. Increasing capacity on the railways is certainly necessary but the trouble is, with HS2 increased capacity will take a long, long time to deliver. Phase 1 of HS2 on its own – the London to Birmingham line – will not be running until 2026 at the very earliest. We are going to have a long wait for the next high speed train.

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HS2: The evidence finally catches up with the government

18/06/2012, 07:00:15 AM

by Ben Mitchell

The future of High Speed Two (HS2) hangs in the balance. Just writing this sentence seems preposterous, considering the amount of time and effort that has gone into hyping up its supposed benefits. The government’s high speed fantasy looks like it will become just that.

This is meant to be the great transport project of our age; enthusiastically backed by ministers, dreamt up by Labour. Barely six months after receiving the official go-ahead, the wheels are starting to come off. Once vaunted, yet now being mentioned in lukewarm terms at best.

According to the Spectator, it has been told that HS2 is “effectively dead,” with “momentum draining,” and only David Cameron’s personal support keeping it on “life support.” Missing from the Queen’s speech, supposedly being held back for another year, the coalition’s solitary nod to Keynes is getting the equivalent of the ministerial cold shoulder. Several cold shoulders, if reports are to be believed.

The Spectator alleges that the current transport secretary, Justine Greening, was never an unequivocal backer in the mould of her predecessor, Philip Hammond. Most significantly, the man with the purse strings, Chancellor George Osborne, has apparently turned against it, citing capacity problems at Britain’s airports as a bigger priority. At least they’ve realised the folly of one idea, only to replace it with the folly of another. We shall see.

Back in January, I wrote a lengthy piece tackling the arguments in favour of HS2. It seems the evidence has finally caught up with the government.

The cost was always going to come back to bite minsters where it hurt. With the total of the full Y-network (that’s London to Birmingham, and then on to Leeds and Manchester) nudging up from £32.7bn last year to £36.4bn this year (this is before we include rolling stock capital: £8.15bn, and operating costs: a further £21.7bn. Follow the above link and see page 37 for a complete breakdown), and wider economic benefits falling year on year, or every other month, as has been the case this year, the government’s grip appears to be loosening with every new evaluation.

Readers of last November’s transport select committee report into HS2 (of which I admit to being one such nerd), won’t be in the least bit surprised by the unravelling of the case for.

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Ed Miliband and Maria Eagle should back high speed two

12/03/2011, 06:27:20 PM

by Richard Kelly

A high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London will tear a scar across the natural beauty of rural England, cost billions, and is nothing more than a politician’s vanity project – or at least so comes the polite shout from home county village halls.

I watched BBC News 24 with gritted teeth as an anti high speed two action group campaigner explained his opposition. He described his satisfaction with the existing one and a half hour services; he delighted in the ease with which he reserves himself a seat. I’m sure he sits there smugly as the crowds of tired working people – who have dashed to make one of the final few trains of a Friday evening – stand rattling between rammed full luggage racks and packed out carriages.

Our man was outraged by the potential spending implications. This is the kind of wanton expenditure he expected from socialists – not the Tories whom his vote (I expect) helped squeeze into government. This gentleman, and gentleman he was, was not enticed by the new line’s 14 trains each hour and 49 minute journeys, (and potentially 73 and 80 minutes from London to Manchester and Leeds). Nor by 40, 000 jobs created in construction and maintenance. And he certainly had little interest in bridging the growing North-South divide. What good is a bridge if it tarnishes his upstairs view? (more…)

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