Posted 12th January 2015 | 7 Comments

HS2 costs to come under spotlight

A HOUSE of Lords Committee is set to question HS2 chairman David Higgins over the cost of HS2.

At an evidence session tomorrow (Tuesday) the Economic Affairs Committee will be asking him to explain why HS2 is predicted to cost around ten times more for each kilometre than the French high speed network, and how Sir David will ensure that the cost of the project does not exceed the £50 billion of funding which is available.

The questions will also cover whether the estimated benefits of HS2 set out in the economic case are reliable, why Sir David believes that cutting the journey time of London to Manchester will be ‘transformative’ for Manchester and what capacity problems exist now on the West Coast Main Line.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Graham, Basingstoke

    Conversly I think that HSUK's plan relies to much on one route, as it is likely that more HS routes will be required in due course.

    For instance their suggestion for "improvements" from the South West and South Wales basicly no better than the existing (and for some could be worse). Conversly (using the eastern spur of HS2's Y) there could be speed improvements from such locations heading to Leeds and further up the East Coast.

    Then of course there is scope for HS2 to be expanded with other routes which provide the extra links that HSUK are trying to achive whilst providing much greater improvements.

    I am not supprised that the cost of HS2 is greater than the TVG, just comparing the average monthly salliereis France's are 2,128 compared with 2,597. That means that the pay bill for HS2 is likely to be about 20% more than the construction of the TVG network.

    Also given the TVG network is now just adding short lengths to the network whilst HS2 is needing to build the core the costs are also likely to be higher.

  • Graham Nalty, Derby

    Chris Neville-Smith suggests that we have run out of time to consider alternative routes. Not necessarily so. If we had the HSUK route from London to Birmingham and Leicester, we may well be able to avoid the continuing fight against building HS2 which shows no sign of going away and most surely is going to hold it up, even if it is unlikely to de-rail HS2 (pardon the pun). HSUK shows a much greater understanding of connectivity than HS2, and would deliver much greater benefits to towns not connected to the high speed liners than HS2. We do need a UK high speed rail network linking our major cities with faster trains, but half the proposed stations on HS2 are useless parkway stations at places where no one wants to go, depriving cities such as Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Nottingham and Derby of the full benefits of new job creation that would follow is HS2 trains served their city centres.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    Oh, and to answer David Cook's question: there is one important difference between HS2 and France's TGV network: the latter one avoids the expensive bits. The lines mostly run through open countryside where there's no need for expensive compensation or mitigation, and - crucially - there is enough capacity on classic lines into Paris to drop TGVs on to them for the last bit of the journey. In London, on the other hand, all the existing north-south lines are stuffed so a new line only works with an uber-expensive tunnel and station expansion.

    If you take a look at where the new Tours-Bordeaux line is going and compare that to where HS2 has to go, you'll see how much of an unfair advantage French railways have.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    I do have some sympathy with the argument that the route is too north-west focused, but unfortunately I think we've run out of time to consider alternative routes now.

    That's a pity, because my view is that neither opponents nor proponents of high-speed rail never gave that much consideration to a less NW-centric route. As far as I can tell, once the DfT decided (correctly. IMHO) to go for a Y-network, it went straight ton considering a phase 1 optimising journey times to Birmingham without really considering whether that was the right priority. Most opponents, on the other hand, thought they could get everyone on the anti-rail bandwagon and stop a new line completely. The only group I've seen that attempted to back a different route was HSUK, but their valid arguments on the advantages of a different route were undermined very badly by some wildly optimistic assumptions on benefits and costs.

    It might, however, be a good idea to start thinking about a better London-NE line to complement HS2. I'm not sure the 18tph offered by HS2 are going to be enough to meet future north-south capacity demands, so perhaps we should dust off the obscure plan for a second pair of track on a different alignment sooner rather than later. We could consider a line that joins HS2 round about Toton, an upgraded ECML (probably with some bits of new lines) or a combination of the two. We don't have to commit to it now - just have a plan in place if we need it later.

  • David Cook, Broadstone, Dorset

    Why is HS2 projected to cost so much more than the TGV? Simply because the French got on a built their TGV. We have to go through never ending enquiries over every ant or worm colony on the route, added to the number of people who want to slow it down to the point of making it so expensive it gets halted due to expense, a sort of self serving destruction process by cost. As Melvyn has so rightly pointed out, the costs and chaos of rebuilding the WCML to take continental gauge stock, and expanding it to take the number of trains running in the future, is unthinkable when looking at a relatively small project such as closing Kings Cross over the Christmas period...... We must build a new railway, so it may as well be a fast one as the people who currently moan about HS2 will be only too ready to moan if we spend billions building a slow railway with loads of bends to suit every person between London and the North. Could you imagine the Romans having public enquiries when they built their nice straight roads 2000 years ago, and ended up with twisty roads going round every tree on this island!!!!!

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    If people thought that problems over Christmas were bad just imagine the ongoing chaos trying to expand existing lines will bring especially if you also want clearances for continental gauge trains !

    Far better to build a brand new railway which is cut off from the existing network until the time comes to join the the brand new railway to the existing network comes.

    I have heard that new railways are often built like a motorway and once built have their rail infrastructure added to turn them into a railway.**

    Crossrail has shown the benefits of building a brand new line with only a relatively short time when its tunnels are linked to existing lines affecting services and then it's no different to ongoing upgrade works.

    Don't forget the 50 billion figure includes a major contingency for each stage of HS2 which basically cost the same as Crossrail for each stage !

    (**Not sure how valid this comparison is. Railways and roads have different foundations and structures, partly because axle loadings can be higher on rail vehicles. There are also significant differences in such things as drainage, while widths and clearances are also different. The basic land clearance stage might be similar, but that's probably it.--Editor.)

  • John Martyn Thomas, Devizes

    The Economic Affairs Committee is on the right "lines". The operating specifiation (essentially the top speed in service) and the route (too focussed on the West) are not defendable in the context of the distances to be operated at high speed and the destinations to be served. The consequence is a level of expenditure that not only puts this very essential project in jeopardy, but deprives other UK regions of their share of rail investment. Let's get real!