Posted 31st October 2022 | 7 Comments

Future of HS2 placed in doubt by minister

The future of HS2 could be at risk, after levelling-up minister Michael Gove warned that ‘everything will be reviewed’ when he was asked about the gap in government funds.

He then named the high speed project as a possible candidate for savings, describing it as ‘a significant investment’, but gave no other details.

Some backbenchers have already been calling for HS2 to be abandoned. Mr Gove told Times Radio: ‘As a result of different factors, including mistakes that were made at the mini-budget, we have got to make some decisions which will be painful. When we face the particularly economic problems that we have at the moment, I’m sure that some capital spending will be cut.’

Meanwhile, the mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin is calling for an update on the £100 million Leeds Area Study which is examining ‘the most effective way’ to bring HS2 trains from East Midlands Parkway to Leeds, using the conventional network. Although the study was set up almost eleven months ago, it appears to be on hold.

The mayor said: ‘We’ve not heard a thing and it’s so disrespectful. It just shows the government’s commitment to the North that we still have no information at all on the study, even the terms of reference.’

The government has not commented on the Leeds study delay or Mr Gove’s remarks, saying only: ‘HS2 is under way, within budget, and supporting 28,000 jobs. The government remains committed to delivering it on time and to budget.

‘As the latest report to parliament sets out, current cost pressures are covered within the existing budget and we continue to identify areas where savings and efficiencies can be made.’

Reader Comments:

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

  • Greg T, London

    Let's have SLOW, overcrowded railways, so that the tories can close them all down next time round, shall we?
    Along with the absence of interest in improving freight links, the tories are still in Marples/beeching/Serpell mode, it seems

  • John Helm, CHATHAM

    I’m not anti-high speed but I simply can’t raise any enthusiasm for HS2. It ticks all the wrong boxes and joins up all the wrong dots. HS2 won’t connect with HS1 or Heathrow Airport; it will require two different train sets, and it will run into three dead end stations in Birmingham, Manchester & Leeds. It offers very poor connectivity with the rest of the network. It will also consume so much money that it poses a threat to every other rail project.

    The promoters have been very coy on the subject but if the HS1 precedent is anything to go on they will need to levy premium fares to claw back construction costs. HS1 can get away with this because SET controls the rival routes to the Kent Coast but HS2 will be less fortunate as its market is likely to be more competitive. Charging premium fares would also be contrary to the ‘levelling up’ agenda we hear so much about. Many folks will be priced off from using.

    In any case the business case if there ever was one has changed post covid. This decision will cause yet more uncertainty and nothing inflates construction costs more than constantly changing plans while work is still in progress.

    Yet again the politicians must bear full responsibility for coming up with another ill thought out vanity project (which the public will have to pay for).

  • John B, London

    Some potentially good news on the way. Even if the runaway train can't be stopped entirely, damage can at least be limited to the Birmingham/London section. If the Tories pledge to cancel/limit HS2, they'll have my vote in the next election.

  • Chris Parker, London

    HS2 always has been a political vanity project and the so call "business case" was a fiction , based on people not working on trains etc. The revised roi reflects reality and is pretty dire. Yes there was a need for extra commuter capacity from London to Milton Keynes, however that may be questionable.The benefits to the construction industry are real. However the proposed speed of the trains , which is never likely to be achieved and the track required to sport it is complete overkill. A lower speed would be far better.
    What about freight? This is crucial, more so than passengers moving forward, major investment is crucial.

    Much is talked of in terms of the benefits in growth from HS2. Loads of models predicting vast numbers of money from cutting journey times , where is the evidence in real money? We live in a digital age , people can communicate effectively without getting somewhere 20 minutes earlier, so where is the "growth" coming from. HS2 is unable to identify the mix of business to leisure traffic, so how can you establish a business benefit. This is a massive numbers game , but the costs are very real .

    Sadly HS2 is a bit like Brexit, fixed views and little common sense in between. We have already seen part of HS2 cancelled. Phase 2 should be halted and a sensible rethink of the priorities of rail in the North. That may not include HS2 in its current form.

  • ChrisJones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    Let it not be forgotten that HS2 is very much a live project where considerable sums have already been spent securing parliamentary approval to proceed and land & property to protect the alignment. Construction is already underway and evident in sites all the way from Euston to Curzon St. Serious investment is already being made in employment and supply chains which in turn is contributing to the greater economy.

    Unfortunately the case for HS2 keeps being undermined by politicians who fail to realise the benefits of providing a dedicated route for high speed intercity services to the release capacity on the existing network to improve services for communities en route & freight customers.

    Already later stages of the project have seen scope reduced and further political back tracking will only play into critics hands that HS2 is little more than an extravagant branch line from London to Birmingham of no benefit to the majority of the country. Yes value for money should be strived for at every stage but not at the expense of undermining economic activity and further consigning the nations transport infrastructure to ridicule.

  • david C Smith, Bletchley

    Yes, utilising the old Great Central route to rebuild extra capacity, around 50 miles Calvert to the Rugby / Nuneaton area plus upgrading south of Calvert, could give an extra pair of tracks predominantly for freight to tackle the WCML capacity problem south of Rugby at a small fraction of present costs.

    Manchester and Liverpool are now well within distance of Euston where Intercity trains, at a little over 2 hours, already have a Lion's share of the London travel market , and don't need drastic acceleration. Birmingham even more so. Perhaps the most needed investment needs here are for cab signalling , allowing the existing Pendolinos to use their 140 mph potential.

    The only conurbations that could reap big rewards from TGV speeds are further north, Teesside / Tyne and Wear / Scottish Central Belt. An LGV catering for such as an alternative HS2 could have been built on an East Coast alignment at considerably lower costs.

  • Michael T., Reading

    The "Greater" and more extensive the pruning of the HS2 branches... the higher the cost of the primary core of the by-passing of the WCML stations between Euston and the West Midlands.
    IF HS2 had drawn the route adjacent to the WCML route on the 'diagrammatic' imagery - not geographically based, the fork and pork folk people would see and overwhelmingly support the project. There is NIL space beside/adjacent to the WCML for an additional pair for up/down flight train path lines... ergo they have to follow a slightly altered route. This route is essentially a 21st century reusing and updating of the old Grand Central Railway serving to leap frog/by-pass commuter belt towns and cities.
    HS2 will speed up trains from North of Midlands/Crewe by removing the ICE/HST trainsets off the WCML. Without the ICE/HST trainsets on the WCML of the last 150km into London, it will enable additional capacity for the trains serving the 150km zone.
    Add MORE scope to the project, extent it all the way to Inverness, Anglesey, Fishguard, Lands End, and add in the loop around from HS2 to LHR to LGW to Maidstone, Ashford, and the Channel tunnel with through services to CDG and Paris as well as Koln, Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Copenhagen, Malmo, etc.
    With dedicated High Speed STRAIGHT alignment from Inverness to Berlin and Stockholm and Paris to Rome / Barcelona = the domestic flights clogging airports and polluting sky would no longer be necessary.
    Have a LONG TERM Objective of No two urban conurbations in the UK to be no greater than Two Hours travel distance by High Speed Trains.
    London to Paris in just over an Hour.
    Pruning the HS2... to be a 150km typical Tory overpriced disaster of over 150bn ( will be worthless by the time it is completed).