Posted 12th November 2019 | 6 Comments

Peak rail fares could soar unless HS2 is built, says leaked report

HS2 SHOULD still be built in spite of rising costs, according to a newspaper report based on a leaked version of the Oakervee review.

The Times says it has seen a draft version of the review, and that high speed lines could boost cities in the North and Midlands because there would be better intercity connections.

The review apparently warns there are no ‘shovel-ready’ alternative ways of increasing rail capacity, and that without such increases to cater for growth in demand, peak travel would have to be deliberately suppressed by large fare rises.

Until recently the official cost of the scheme linking London and Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds was £55.7 billion, but it then emerged that the figure would be not far short of £80 billion.

Even this may not be the end of the story. The review is said to include a revised estimate of £88 billion, which it warns is likely to rise still further.

The review admits that the higher costs have cut the estimated benefits to taxpayers from £2.30 for every pound spent to as little as £1.30.

Doug Oakervee also found that the procurement strategy for Phase 1 has been a failure, because of inflated prices.

The review was launched by Boris Johnson in August before he was elected Conservative Party leader and became Prime Minister, and it had been due to be published around the end of October until a General Election was called for 12 December. This was expected to delay the publication of government reports like the Oakervee Review.

The need for HS2 has often been questioned by some MPs and Peers.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has been particularly critical. In May this year it recommended that the northern sections of HS2 should be built first, and combined with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

On the other hand, former Network Rail CEO David Higgins often asserted that the West Coast Main Line was being ‘trashed’ by its very heavy traffic, and that new capacity between London, the Midlands and  North was essential.

Reader Comments:

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

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    There are probably a number of ways the ECML could be "fettled up" to be a true HS line, London - Teesside - Tyneside - Edinburgh - Clydeside, so as to enable new day return opportunities and competitiveness with aviation ; the underlying point here is that , because of the distances involved, ( from 240 to 440 miles) this is probably the only serious HS scheme in Britain that could be viable.

    Of course, there is need for higher speeds in the transpennine region, where we're talking about big cities typically separated by around 40 miles, where quite modest speed improvements can have the desired effects.

    Capacity enhancements are also needed in a number of places, but these don't always coincide (geographically) with the need for high speeds. And let's not forget that new capacity may, in some cases be best built for the needs of freight traffic.

    Finally, why not complete the proposed resignalling of the WCML , so as to allow the Pendolino fleet to make use of their full140 mph maximum speed ?

  • John Harper, Kelso

    The population projections for the UK make HS2 essential the alternative is to spend as much piping water to the South East and building over the green belt. What HS2 will do is enable / encourage population growth in the North / Midlands and Scotland. To be effective in reducing air travel between the Central Belt of Scotland and London the ECML needs a massive upgrade north of York, a Morpeth bi pass, sections of quad track between Edinburgh and Newcastle, and a new alignment between Newcastle and Darlington. A sub 2 hr travel time London to Newcastle and 3 hrs 15 to Edinburgh will remove thousands of flights a year. Eventually the WCML needs similar upgrades, plus the Waverley route needs reopening to provide an Anglo-Scottish freight route inconjunction with the S&C. The HS3 link will also be complementary. Keeping HS2 also avoids throwing 15% of the project cost down the drain.

    I agree there are other worthy projects such as more electrification and reopenings which will enable more trains to use the network, increased freight. We also need to look at more light rail as tram trains require a lighter infrastructure an example being Leicester to Burton. To pay for this road charging will need to be introduced as a replacement for fuel duty, and we will need to encourage long distance road freight to rail via taxation, short haul less so.

  • Michael, Reading, Berks, EU

    The Government and Rail Industry has failed to 'socially nudge' the public on the merits of HS2. A simple statement: The WCML is running beyond capacity and can not meet demands from 30 years ago, today, and definitely not in five or ten years plus time. The choice is HS2 route (which should be build with four sets of rails from start) or adding an additional double set adjacent to the WCML."
    How many people want to foot the cost of ploughing through existing infrastructure/housing etc to make the WCML fit for purpose and Safe for at least a few decades and will have the capacity for the Ashford, LGW, LHR, BHX, MCR, GLA etc services. This would remove the need for virtually all internal air passenger flights and cargo.
    HS2 is very short sighted as it is only a single pair of railway tracks... that would meet demands of twenty or more years ago. The price to build it slightly more land with FOUR sets of Railway lines, two up two down. This would give actual future proofing for a little while.

  • John B, London

    No surprises here. A former head of HS2 (known during his time as "Captain Invisible") lines up to defend the project at any cost, forcing the far more knowledgeable and experienced Lord Berkeley to resign.

    Given that the whole wretched project is not scheduled to open until 2033, HS2 is not a "shovel-ready" scheme. And there are many other schemes across the country which could be delivered before then at a lower cost and achieve far greater comparable benefits.

    Time to derail this gravy train and deliver the step change which the network is crying out for. Scrap HS2 in favour of Rail Package 2 and kick on with regional rail schemes without the GRIP stranglehold.

  • Jez Milton, Manchester

    Higgins is absolutely correct. The WCML takes a daily battering and reliability is poor. The line between Coventry and Birmingham is the busiest mixed traffic 2 track railway in GB. More capacity is needed fact.

    The anti-HS2 mob know nothing about rail, and most of them only drive/fly everywhere: specialists in pollution and ignorance.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Oh dear ! Funny how this news has surfaced straight after the ejection of Lord Berkeley.

    Of course new capacity is needed , especially south from Rugby, but this can be gained much more cheaply with extra conventional ( 125 / 140 mph) infrastructure, such as a relayed Great Central to a new junction between Rugby and Nuneaton. Half this is already "in situ"( south of Calvert ) , which just needs upgrading , whilst extra terminal capacity at Maylebone or Paddington will become available once the Elizabeth line starts operating.

    As for serious high speed ( 200 mph ?), the most obious candidate would be an East Coast alignment that would largely be through more sparsely populated / developed land , keeping cost per mile substantially lower, targetting N E England and the Scottish Central Belt . Why? Because they are at distances from London where a "sea change" in day return possibilities and competitiveness with aviation would come about. There would also be "spin off" benefit for centres in Yorkshire.

    Serious high speed won't bring much extra benefit for Birmingham or Manchester to the capital, as these are significantly shorter routes and already have 80+% of the market. A "horses for courses" approach rather than the current mixup of capacity relief and very high speeds would produce greater overall benefit for less cost.