Posted 11th February 2019 | 9 Comments

Scrapping HS2 to North ‘would be criminal’

A DOCUMENTARY will claim this evening that the scrapping of HS2 is now under ‘active consideration’ by ministers, as rising costs continue to threaten the project. It is also being suggested that only Phase 1 might survive, between London and Birmingham.

Predictions of a much higher final bill than £56 billion have been made frequently over the past couple of years, with some critics suggesting the total could be more than £100 billion when the planned phases have all been built between now and 2033.

The government has maintained that the scheme is going ahead, and HS2 has the public support of the Prime Minister, although the next stage of legislation, which would authorise the lines to Manchester and Leeds, has been postponed until next year.

Some Whitehall sources have claimed that ministers are ‘minded’ to divert the allocated funds to conventional railway projects. In spite of Mrs May’s apparent support, one minister has alleged that she wanted to ‘scrap the whole thing’ after taking over at No 10 from David Cameron, although she changed her mind before taking any steps to kill the scheme.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham will tell ‘Dispatches’ viewers on Channel 4 this evening that ‘The big scandal would be if the rumours come true that HS2 stops at Birmingham. That will be criminal, that will be a complete waste of money.’

Meanwhile, government rail advisor Professor Stephan Glaister says: ‘There was no big picture analysis. We just don’t know whether there would have been a better way of spending the money. You might ask the question what else could you do? You could give larger sums of money to Manchester to Birmingham, to Newcastle and let them do as they saw best for their local communities.’

The programme, called ‘HS2: the great train robbery’, will also report the views of HS2’s new chief executive, Mark Thurston.

He said: ‘What I'm very clear on and what HS2 is very clear on is that the budget for this scheme is £56 billion. That’s the task we've been set by government and that's what we work on until government advise us otherwise.’

As far as investment in the North of England is concerned, he added: ‘We have to do both. When High Speed 2 and the work of Northern Powerhouse Rail brings together an integrated rail network to connect those Northern cities, its will transform the northern economy, it will transform as a consequence the UK economy, it will rebalance that prosperity and wealth gap that we know we have between North and South.’

Reader Comments:

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

  • jak jay, surry

    No Mr Burnham it will be criminal if it IS built the money should be spent on Hospitals and the like i have always thought if it is ever started it will stop at Birmingham and stay there for years.
    And as for Mr Thurston he should 'wake up and smell the coffee' as the Americans say ,its all jam tomorrow and pie in the sky,Northern Power House? dont make me laff!

  • Keith David Ashington, WELLINGTON

    Building a railway as straight and flat as possible avoids the need for expensive future maintenance, (gauge management, worn rails, rolling contact fatigue etc). IF a railway is as flat and straight as possible, you minimise maintenance cost and minimise whole life costs. You may as well maximise the speed if you have the facility.

    Larger tunnels take larger trains; reduce the size of the tunnels if you want but then limit the number of passengers you can take per train (unless you make trains longer, in which case make platforms longer).

    You CANNOT DO ANYTHING MORE WITH THE EXISTING NETWORK. Relying on digital railway, ERTMS, ETCS, ATP etc is costly, time consuming AND DOESN'T EXIST YET.

    Too much time and money has been spent satisfying the whims of the Tory-represented home counties, many of which exist because of an existing or mothballed railway route. These politicians ask for longer tunnels, more money for land purchase etc and then complain about higher costs.

    The fact is the home county Tory politicians don't want it as they know that many commuters will sell hard-to-afford properties in the commuter belts that they represent. SE property prices will fall.

    Commuters will move to cheaper, more scenic, areas in the Midlands and North, as they will be able to commute in much shorter times. Commuters earn money in the South East and spend it in the North, helping to balance the economy.

  • David Prescott, Stirling

    Mark Thurston said it will be built for £56b - but he did not say what would be built. - So expect the routine project descoping exercise that happens in such circumstances, which reduces the line speed and the capacity (400kph is excessive but it has driven a lot of cost) Speed reduction will dramatically reduce all the tunnelling costs. 8 trains an hour is undeliverably given the interface with the wider network expect 14 - so where loses out?
    HS2 drives a need to spend as much again on access modes such as Crossrail 2 and Leeds trams, but then there are all the upgrades required for WCML north of Crewe.
    The concept of extra capacity for the WCML and ECML is fine, but HS2 is the wrong answer with excess speed, excess tunnelling, terminal stations in some big cities, parkway stations for other regions and no proper integrsation with the existing railway.
    As for extra fast line paths on WCML south once trains to Coventry, Wolverhampton, Trent Valley stations, Stoke, North Wales and Lancashire and Cumbria are provided at reasonable frequencies it will not be a lot different to now!!
    So regrettably the wrong scheme to deal with the problem - eating up all the funds and all the staff resources and expertise

  • PETER , Kings Stanley

    The Northern franchise is an absolute shambles but it's got nothing to do with HS2. We had the debate & massive cross party support so now just get on & build it otherwise HS2 will also join the long list of shambolic railway farces in this country.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Having now watched the programme one can only say not only how biased the program was but much of it concentrated on crowded two carriages of pacer trains or "buses on wheels!" yet no mention was made of new train orders that are about to start delivery to replace these trains . Anyway HS2 is about infrastructure and not trains .

    However, some of these passengers might not be too pleased with their new trains given how many 2 carriage trains have been ordered !

    There was also no realily re Northern Powerhouse Rail which is being built on the back of HS2 and if HS2 is not built then there won't be a case for building NPR !

    While no mention was made of the fact that trains from London currently arriving in Manchester become local trains on final sections to Manchester something HS2 will remove as long distance trains will use HS2 freeing up existing local lines for more local and regional services. Which is the basis of HS2 project.

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    I think HS2 will still be given the go ahead despite setbacks to scrap it. Whilst work is already happening at London Euston and the new HS2 hub station at Old Oak Common in West London.

  • Steve, Poole

    'sources have claimed that ministers are ‘minded’ to divert the allocated funds to conventional railway projects.'
    If that is true, I'd rather it was. It would pay for many of the proposed re-openings that are perpetually delayed by lack of funding. Portishead, Tavistock, Honeybourne-Stratford, Skipton-Colne, Blyth and Tyne and others. Might speed up East-West as well. Also redoubling at Cotswold line, Salisbury - Exeter and elsewhere. More benefits spread more widely.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    HS2 legislation has normally got 10/1 majorities in both Houses of Parliament in successive Governments of first Labour Gordon Brown then Conservative David Cameron a far cry from the Wafer thin majority Brexit got ! While legislation to extend HS2 to Crewe is currently going through Parliament.

    The delay in phase 2b is linked to the creation of Northern Powerhouse Rail originally called HS3 which was not proposed when original plans for HS2 were developed and so combining HS2 and NPR makes sense in development of a wider network.

    It should be remembered that the original basis for HS2 was the fact that our railways are near to saturation with no capacity for additional trains given the way they now carry passenger numbers more like a century ago but on a much smaller network.

    As to alternative well we spent billions on the WCML upgrade and yet without Pendolino tilting trains it's still just a 100 mph railway with twists and turns !

    It's also worth remembering that headline figures re cost of HS2 never separate basic cost to that including contingency costs !

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    Going as far as Birmingham was always on the Cards. I have always presumed that a Government would wait until it saw how much profit/loss the first phase produced (and of course the passenger numbers) before it would ever commit to any further stages. I know this has problems because staff, momentum and knowledge gained from Phase 1 would be lost, but I don't think any Government could risk it. What the UK economy does as a whole will also influence any decision. Apparently the current Government is offering development money to areas that voted Brexit and have a Labour MP. I wonder what those projects might be and where the money is coming from ?