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Building for the Future

 

HS2 Phase 2 delayed…

The Government have announced they are delaying the construction of HS2 Phase 2a and b. Works will be on pause for 2 years due to rising inflation and soaring construction costs. Consequently, HS2 to Crewe may not be open until 2036 and the further connection to Manchester until 2043. This has led to widespread belief that the full implementation of HS2 will never happen.

The announcement also contained further concerning reports that trains running to Euston will also be delayed. Despite the demolition and preparatory work that has already taken place, some sources say that it is unlikely Euston will be a terminus for HS2 trains until 2040s; when trains are running from Manchester. Consequently, trains will be terminating at Old Oak Common, with a connection using the Elizabeth line to reach central London- an unappealing option compared to the West Coast Mainline journeys direct route into Euston.

Many sector experts are alarmed at this news, arguing that delaying Phase 2 and the completion to Euston will only increase costs. However, with costs for Phase 1 increasing by £2 billion since October 2022, it is clear something needs to be done to combat this extreme spending. Transport for Britain argue that delaying the build of Phase 2 and increasing connectivity and accessibility in phase 1, will avoid poor revenue gains and a disastrous decrease in the rate of return for HS2.

For more information on Transport for Britain’s aims for HS2 click here.

 

Cost effective alternatives to HS2 Eastern Leg

The Government’s commitment to HS2 has led to an estimated overspend of around 73 billion, not to mention the recent concerns expressed by transport ministers of contingency funds already being used. Alongside this, the loss of the Eastern Leg has meant it is now essential to ensure that the remaining HS2 line will be a worthwhile investment benefitting more than just a small percentage of the population.

The Government gave the green light to proceed with the construction of HS2 on the 15th April 2021 despite the increased cost and significant social changes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Then in November 2021 and the release of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) the Government published plans to overhaul the project and restructure of HS2. The removal of the Eastern Leg not only means the loss in high-speed rail for the Northeast but the resulting reduction in connectivity. While many of us may feel proceeding with this project doesn’t make sense from an economic, user or environmental perspective, the Government has committed to spending up to £106bn on HS2 and the necessity is therefore to ensure that it will be a worthwhile investment.

Transport for Britain will work to address the lack of connectivity between HS2 and the existing Rail Network. Reacting to HS2’s outdated objectives to release capacity and provide high speed rail, in order to create a railway that provides connectivity and reflects the societal shift as a result of the pandemic. By using local infrastructure projects, Transport for Britain aims to help utilise the benefits of HS2 and the new rail plans in the IRP for those communities that have been previously overlooked. Aiming to ensure the railway is seen as a viable form of transport as well as an environmentally efficient option; providing a railway for all.

 

The Mott MacDonald Report

When addressing the issue of the rising costs of the construction of HS2, the government commissioned Mott MacDonald to investigate alternatives for the Eastern Leg. Mott MacDonald created a report outlining 7 different options, each with varying pros and cons. However, the consistent overall message was that any other alternative to the Eastern Leg would not deliver benefits promised for the North and would not achieve the government’s proposals.

The different options Mott MacDonald produced included simple line upgrades, either for East Coast Mail Line (ECML), Midlands Main Line (MML) or both. Though these were the most cost affective solution as an alternative to the Eastern Leg, they really brought no other benefits to the Midlands and the North; significantly providing no improvement in connectivity. Mott MacDonald also explored the options in shortening the Eastern Leg and terminating HS2 either in Sheffield or Leeds, as well as alternative alignments at Erwash or Newark. This would result in some improvements in connectivity however, comparatively to the Eastern Leg, it still falls short of government’s agenda

Option 2: ‘First Phase to Sheffield’ was the preferred choice by the government. It sees HS2 continuing from Birmingham to the Midlands Mainline near East Midlands Parkway, with then further line upgrades to Sheffield. This option is estimated to be a third of the cost of the Eastern Leg as well as creating improvements in connectivity for the Midlands. Furthermore, this option also brings much needed improvements in journey times between Birmingham and Nottingham, as well as communities east of Nottingham which would benefit with further infrastructure investment, for example Lincoln and Newark.

The connectivity benefits Option 2 brings for the Midlands however, does not resolve the loss in rail improvements and connectivity the Eastern Leg would have brought to Leeds and the North East. The impact on journey times between major cities is also affected by the new plans, with only Birmingham to Sheffield seeing improvements under the scheme.

With the release of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) in November 2021 and an update on the changes to HS2, very little information was given on how and when Leeds and the North East will receive rail improvements to equate for the loss of the Eastern Leg. The Government stated that there will be “a study to look at the best way to take HS2 trains to Leeds, including capacity at Leeds Station”. The IRP further discloses a commitment of £100m to produce a solution that is supported by thorough analysis and evidence.

Transport for Britain look to support a viable option that ensures the North East receives the best possible solution as an alternative to the Eastern Leg, vastly improving the rail network in the North and the consequential connectivity for the whole of Britain.

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