HS2, White Elephant or disaster waiting to happen?
Britain cannot meet its future transport needs without HS2, according to new propaganda published by the Government today.
What started as a Blair Brown Regime exercise in winning votes in the Labour Northern Rotten Boroughs became a vanity project for the Coalition Government. In the process, both regimes ignored a very viable alternative route following a main line to the North axed by the Beeching Report that aimed to decimate British rail lines in the mid 1960s. This route would avoid a host of risks faced by HS2, would cost around 10% of the currently admitted cost of HS2 (this figure will probably rise dramatically) and enable the high speed London to Manchester & Leeds rail link to open many years earlier. The final outcome of this chaotic situation is likely to be the cancellation of HS2 and the failure to look at the alternative merits of re-opening the axed line.
In the meantime, “Clueless” Cameron is wedded to HS2 and will attempt to assemble as much FUD, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, in the hope of ramming this disastrous HS2 project down Parliament’s throat.
Even with over £50 billion of planned transport investment over the next six years the country’s railways will be overwhelmed. ‘The Strategic Case for HS2’ sets out in detail the need for a new railway line to provide the vitally needed extra capacity.
Central to the case is new data that reveals the true extent of the crisis facing the UK rail network and the impact alternatives to building HS2 would have.
The document outlines how demand for rail travel will continue to grow. By 2026 on commuter services into London during the evening peak, 40 per cent of passengers will be standing, while research by Network Rail and Atkins shows that the alternative to HS2 would result in up to 14 years of weekend closures on existing lines and deliver only a fraction of the additional capacity.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said:
“We need a radical solution and HS2 is it. A patch and mend job will not do – the only option is a new north south railway.
“HS2 brings massive benefits to the north, is great for commuters and the alternatives just don’t stack up.
“Now is the time to be bold and deliver a world class railway which Britain deserves and can truly be proud of. Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to take this opportunity.”
The East Coast, West Coast and Midland Main Lines can only carry a finite number of trains each day before they become clogged. HS2 will add 18 trains an hour between Manchester, Leeds and London and will allow significantly more freight onto the wider rail network.
The new railway is also estimated to deliver an annual boost to the economy of up to £15 billion as a result of productivity benefits to business from faster journeys and reduced crowding. There will also be benefits of increased production efficiency from businesses being closer together. The analysis shows that the railway is vital in rebalancing the economy benefiting the north overall more than the south.
The Government expects considerable regeneration around stations delivering jobs and growth similar to the experience of HS1 (the Channel Tunnel Rail Link). The Strategic Case points to £10 billion private sector investment around the new HS1 station sites as well as Google, the Crick Institute and other major international firms moving in to the area around King’s Cross and St Pancras demonstrating the likely economic investment expected along the HS2 route.
The Government has updated the benefit to cost ratio (BCR) of the railway, valuing it at 2.3 or providing two pounds worth of benefits for every one pound spent. This is similar to Crossrail and higher than the benefit cost ratio for some other major projects when approved, such as Thames Link and the Jubilee Line extension. The BCR will increase to 4.5 if rail demand continues to rise until 2049.
Other benefits of the railway included in the document are estimates from Network Rail that over 100 cities and towns could benefit from new or improved services as a result of capacity released on the existing rail network. These include:
• additional commuter services into London from places such as Watford, Milton Keynes, Rugby and Northampton;
• new commuter services into Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester;
• new longer distance services, for example providing new and better links between Bradford and London; Lincoln and London; Shrewsbury and London; and Leeds and Cambridge; and
• more paths for rail freight, with at least 1,000 lorry-loads a day carried on the network.
In addition, the Government will also aim to ensure that all towns or cities which currently have a direct service to London will retain broadly comparable or better services once HS2 is completed. The Government intends to launch a study to recommend how this can be done and also how services can support long term economic growth.