Posted 6th January 2020 | 8 Comments

Storm breaks after Berkeley publishes his HS2 review

Updated 6 January 07.45

RAILWAY industry sources and politicians have been defending the need for HS2, after Lord (Tony) Berkeley published his own version of the forthcoming Oakervee Review. Oakervee is understood to be in favour of the scheme in spite of its sharply rising costs.

Parliament was ‘misled’ over the budget, alleges Berkeley, who had been deputy chairman of the official review panel, led by Douglas Oakervee. However, Berkeley and most of his colleagues were suddenly stood down at the end of October. Lord Berkeley has refused to sign the official version, saying that the project was out of control at an estimated cost of up to £107 billion.

He has now issued his own unofficial assessment of the scheme, which claims that Douglas Oakervee ‘fiddled with the numbers’, making the report a ‘whitewash’ and ‘a very good marketing document for HS2’.

He also claims that MPs would not have voted in favour of the Hybrid Bill authorising Phase 1 between London and Birmingham, if they had known the true cost. At the time, the official budget for all Phases was £55.7 billion, and this was said to include generous contingency margins.

The opening dates are also slipping, according to Lord Berkeley, who says Phase 1 is unlikely to open before 2031, five years later than planned, although the official date is now 2029. He also does not believe that Phase 2 will be complete to Manchester and Leeds before 2040. He says the benefit to taxpayers is ‘well below the break-even point’, and that only parts of the line should be built in the north of England.

However, his conclusions have received a bleak reception in the regions.

Midlands Connect Director Maria Machancoses said: ‘Lord Berkeley’s suggestion that the government should consider building only small sections of HS2 in the north of England shows a disgraceful ignorance of how important the scheme is to the Midlands. Our region of more than ten million people stands to benefit the most from HS2, yet we are consistently squeezed out of the debate. HS2 must be delivered in full.

‘Contrary to Lord Berkeley’s view that the benefits of HS2 have been overstated, I believe firmly that they have been vastly underestimated. During the official Oakervee Review, Midlands Connect and our partners submitted swathes of compelling new evidence showing that integrating HS2 with existing networks can bring vast improvements to journeys for millions of people.

‘HS2 is the best way of levelling up the country and unleashing our potential. There are no 'shovel ready' alternatives that could transform our rail network in the same way.’

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: We need HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered together, in full. After decades of underinvestment in strategic rail infrastructure, this is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform capacity and connectivity and level-up communities across the North, and beyond. We don't much appreciate being told by a peer, who divides his time between London and Cornwall, what the North wants.’

The Railway Industry Association has also voiced its disagreement.

Its chief executive Darren Caplan said: ‘We acknowledge the views of former HS2 Review Vice Chair Lord Berkeley in his minority report published today, and await the main Oakervee Review of HS2, which we understand will be published shortly.

‘Let us be clear: HS2 is vital for the UK as it seeks to boost its transport infrastructure for the whole country in the coming decades. It will provide much greater capacity by taking traffic off the current rail network, and transform connectivity between economic centres, cities, towns and communities. It is already generating thousands of jobs, and billions of pounds and GVA in investment and economic growth across the country, and will do even more in the coming months and years as the project gets delivered. What’s more, as studies into HS2 have found, its benefits have been significantly undervalued, with forecasts of 500,000 extra jobs and 90,000 homes created around HS2 stations in the years ahead.

‘We urge the Oakervee Review to publish swiftly and the Government to proceed with the project as soon as possible.’

Meanwhile, campaigners opposed to HS2 have welcomed Lord Berkeley’s conclusions. Penny Gaines of Stop HS2 said: The case for HS2 has always been poor, and is simply getting worse. It is time for this white elephant of a project to be cancelled as quickly as possible.’

The DfT said: ‘The government commissioned the Oakervee review to provide advice on how and whether to proceed with HS2, with an independent panel representing a range of viewpoints. Lord Berkeley's report represents his personal view.’

No date has yet been announced for the publication of the Oakervee document which, like the Rail Review being prepared by Keith Williams, was probably delayed by the general election.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Alan Saddington, Canvey Island

    Our railways are over 150 years old and HS2 will still be in use 150 years from now in fact it makes more sense for it to go to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Anyone who travels the WCML knows passenger capacity is required now and we would all like freight to be on our railways but this is not going to happen without HS2. Perhaps the objectors would like a motorway,

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    There seems a basic problem of trying to mix together very high speed (VHS) and capacity relief and thereby "falling between stools".

    Extra benefit from VHS is pretty limited on journeys under about 240 miles; the only route that would probably give greater benefit for lower cost, with a "sea change"in GB is London - Teesside - Tyneside - Edinburgh - Clydeside. On the WCML, a resignalling ( in cab) could allow the Pendolino fleet to use their full 140 mph max.

    As for capacity relief south of Rugby, this could be had for fraction of HS2 phase 1's cost by reusing the Great Central route, either as a supplementary Intercity line or as a dedicated feight artery , given a new junction with the WCML between Rugby and Nuneaton.

  • Jez Milton, Manchester

    HS2 should proceed in full as planned. The best outcome of Oakervee is multiple heads rolling amongst the HS2 senior management team, who have presided over delayed delivery, escalating costs, and pathetic supine PR which has allowed a haemorrhaging of public support.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Remember the fist High Speed Railway? Well it was the GWR built by the Brunels and designed for unheard of speeds of 50 MPH in the days of horse power !

    Why would someone pay to get to London in 5 hours when they can get there in just 5 days using their own horses and for free !

    Lord Berkeley has been part of anti HS2 brigade for years with their White Elephant talk not realising how valuable a white elephant would be !

    The reality is the southern end of the WCML is already close to capacity and unlike at Kings Cross where work to reinstate the 3rd tunnel is underway Euston Station doesn't have space for additional lines so the twin tracks of HS2 will create the capacity needed !

    HS2 also brings the possibility of using Birmingham Airport instead of building a 3rd runway at Heathrow. As for those who say HS2 doesn't serve Heathrow Airport, why should it given customers don't live there !

  • Michael, Reading, Berks, EU

    It would have cost less if it was built and opened 'Decades' ago.
    Every day, month, year it takes... is a cost increase.
    Instead of being so typical british myopic, still building things to the 19th Century... High Speed Rail should connect every metropolitan city in the UK with a maximum journey between any two locations: Two Hours!
    Two hours between any two points will make internal / short haul flights obsolete.

  • Graham Nalty, Derby

    If we accept that a new high speed railway can reduce congestion on main lines north out of London, then designing HS2 so its first calling points are Coventry, Stoke on Trent and Leicester wil almost double the number of fast paths freed up from the WCML and MML.

  • Graham Nalty, Derby

    HS2 will continue to raise storms until someone offers a high speed rail project that really delivers the true benefits of high speed rail. The most significant benefits from high speed rail arise from reducing highly polluting short haul flights. London and Birmingham to Glasgow and Edinburgh in under 3 hours, direct rail services from Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Birmingham to Brussels and Paris and also to Heathrow airport. If a new line is built, it could also offer simple one point connectivity between the north and trains going to the south coast. But HS2 offers none of these benefits. The HS2 route has the appearance of a route designed by a computer algorithm that generates the highest benefits in time savings and fares compared to the cost of the lowest mileage, rather than a careful professional examination of our most urgent rail transport infrastructure needs. Unfortunately its performance on that score keeps getting worse. But really, a high speed line built to within 10 miles of Heathrow airport and Nottingham city centre that does not serve either makes little transport sense. A line that passes within 1-2 miles of the UK's only other high speed line and not connect seems ludicrous.
    What is needed here is the same ruthlessness shown by the PM towards those in his party who made Brexit difficult. First and foremost the DfT has to be taken out the equation and replaced by a high speed rail team of real rail experts. And private industry should be invited to offer solutions just as Cross City Connect has done. They will know they have to keep the cost down and deliver the benefits.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    High Speed is the real bugbear. It means Engineering to a much higher (and expensive) Specification. It also uses much more energy accelerating to the higher speeds. If the real reason is more Capacity on the Network, then the 'High Speed' bit is just window dressing saving only minutes on each journey.