Posted 29th October 2013 | 12 Comments

DfT says railways will be 'overwhelmed' without HS2

THE Department for Transport has published a revised business case for building High Speed 2.

The new analysis has been welcomed by supporters of the project, but opponents are claiming that the Government 'is looking desperate'.

The DfT said 'Britain cannot meet its future transport needs without HS2', while the transport secretary said this morning that the alternative suggestion, that existing routes should be upgraded, would still cost £20 billion, take 14 years and result in tremendous disruption to existing services.

The Government warns that with over £50 billion of planned transport investment over the next six years 'the country’s railways will be overwhelmed', and that its 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 DfT's case is new data that reveal the true extent of the crisis facing the rail network and the effects of trying to build alternatives.

The document outlines how demand for rail travel will continue to grow.  By 2026 40 per cent of passengers will be standing on London commuter services during the evening peak, 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 provide only a fraction of the additional capacity.

Transport secretary 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.”

Michael Roberts, the newly appointed director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: "Through the hard times and the good, demand for rail travel has boomed. There are a million more services and half a billion more passengers on the railway this year than there were a decade ago. By 2020, a further 400 million journeys will be made annually. There is a capacity challenge not just on the West Coast Main Line, but on the railway more generally. That is why we must plan for a network which can move more people and freight across the country safely, reliably and efficiently.

"Later this week, the Office of Rail Regulation will confirm a multi-billion pound programme for the next five years to maintain, renew and enhance the existing rail network. We will need to sustain such commitment in the longer term, and to look seriously now at options for new lines which can form integral parts of the network in future.

"We therefore welcome the vital contribution made by today's report in helping understand how rail can achieve its wider ambition to play a growing role at the heart of a modern, green economy."

Some supporters are pointing out that the construction phases alone will bring substantial benefits.  Head of transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Phillipa Oldham said: "This business case offers welcome clarification of the benefits of rolling out HS2. HS2 provides the step change required to help to remove the bottlenecks in our transport infrastructure by increasing our capacity limits and helping to bridge the North South divide. Introducing HS2 will increase capacity for long distance travellers but also regional and local services on the existing railway.

“Commitment to HS2 also provides the UK’s engineering industry with the much-needed confidence to invest in future skills and will help the UK become a world leader in the development and delivery of railway technology. Over 95 per cent of Crossrail’s budget to date has been won by UK-based businesses – and this is something which could and should be replicated in HS2."

However, Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said; "As we expected, the Government have pulled some random figures out of the air in a desperate attempt to con the public. As if by magic, they expect us to believe that after three years that the economic case for HS2 has risen like a phoenix from the flames. They surely must realise that everyone is going to see through this cynical attempt at spin. Every case they have put up for HS2 so far has been torn apart, and this one will be no different. It is really quite sad that Government think throwing everything at an expensive PR exercise will all of a sudden create support for HS2. They are just looking increasingly desperate and should give it up.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Watched a recording of Patrick McLaughlin speech in which he explained the BCR was only based on 3 years figures as allowed and thus might turn out to be much better and he reminded audience how Jubilee Line Extension had a negative figure which totally ignored the 100,000 people who now work at Canary Wharf.

  • Lutz, London

    @Stephen Lawrence, Cambridge, England
    I very much agree: these lines would probably be of more value if they were designed as a high density "stack them high, sell them cheap" solution. With the proposed journey times the profile of services should probably be more towards a high-density commuter model than a premium inter-city service; more of an easyJet, than BA. If we try applying a model similar to France or Spain, where there are large distances between the urban centres, then the trains are likely to run well below capacity due to relatively high ticket prices.

  • Pete, Manchester

    HS2 Preparation Bill today 350 voted in favour and 34 against.

    Can we please stop talking and for the sake of Britain's future prosperity just get on and build it.

    A tad quicker would be appreciated...I will be in my late-60's by the time it eventually gets to the North West.

  • les burge, leicester

    Please hurry up and get on with building it.
    And start from the north first.
    Also I hope there will be connections to other lines.
    Toton could certainly be a place where the Midland Mainline could link in to travel northwards.
    If it was built from the north first it might also get Scotland and the NE/NW
    to push harder for links to the HS network.

  • Stephen Lawrence, Cambridge, England

    I wonder if there is now a case for making the "new" HS rail sataions slightly bigger and allowing room for some suburban severvices to run into them, and thus improve connectivity? Eg at Leeds, Sheffield, Toton, Birmingham?

  • Lutz, London

    There are genuine concerns about the costings for this project. At the very least a review is require, which should probably start from square one to look at what the intended goals should be.

  • Pete, Manchester

    Went to the National Rail Conference in Manchester, today.

    Patrick McLaughlin was on top form and his rebranding of HS2 as 'The new North-South rail link' is inspired as were other choice quotes like 'room for growth'.

    Strikes me that we can either just get on and build this key piece of National infrastructure, endure 14 years of unimaginable disruption applying yet more sticky tape to the existing Victorian lines, or just give up and all move to the South-East.

    The annual rate of spend is the same as CrossRail 1.
    Funny how we haven't heard constant moaning from the BCC and The Guardian about this.

  • david c smith, milton keynes

    Is the proposed version of HS2 the right one ?

    If capacity rather than ultra high speed is the main justification, could this be acheived a lot more cheaply with nrw build stretches of conventional track to bypass the most heavily trafficked sections ( eg Euston - Rugby / Nuneaton ) ?

    If ultra high speed is justified for the longer inter - city journeys . should we be building a more direct HS2 at lower cost dedicated to this rather than a series of shorter distance lines joined together ?

    Is the curremt HS2 proposal "falling between stools" by trying to be " all things to all people" ?

  • Chris Hamilton, Carluke, South Lanarkshire

    I appreciate that HS2 is unlikely to ever reach my neck of the woods, but rather than complain about money being spent in the south/midlands of England and calling for it to be scrapped I want to see upgrades to the WCML and ECML north of Crewe in addition to HS2 so that the benefit is extended beyond Manchester.

    For example, improvements to the 60mph curve on the WCML at Law Junction or the 80mph junctions at Carstairs and Motherwell and then there are the low speeds through the Lake District.

    The same can be said for the ECML winding sedately through the Borders or the WCML branch to Edinburgh from Carstairs with it's 8-minute signalling headways and 90mph limit despite being as straight as an arrow.

  • Roger, Paisley, UK

    Please just get on with it and get it built.

    The longer it takes the more expensive it is going to be, is this perhaps a tactic being used in order to scale it back or even scrap it all together?

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    Only skimmed the report so far, so will need to go into further detail before committing myself. However, putting the headline figures In context:

    * BCR has slightly moved from 2.5 to 2.3.

    * This is attributed to the cost rising - but that includes the stupid £14bn contingency that the Treasury insisted on adding.

    * This means that benefits will have also risen considerably, because if they stayed the say the fall in BCR would be much much worse.

    * And, in any case, a BCR over 2 is still high value for money.

    * Finally, I understand (willing to be corrected if wrong here) that BCR for Crossrail was about the same when it got the go-ahead. How many journalists in the London-centric media are calling for Crossrail to be scrapped?

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Given the way the Anti HS2 lobby has thrown money away in pointless court cases (often council tax payers money !) they are the ones looking more desperate as the HS2 train nears !

    Of course the real problem has been the way HS2 has been handled by the present government and the lack of big hitters at HS2 to fight off what have often been nonsense claims and it's thus lost several years when it should have built its case !

    HS2 now has to hope Labour politicians acting like overgrown schoolboys don't cause more damage just to score political points above the future of the railways .