Posted 9th October 2023 | 7 Comments

Monday essay: More Network North inconsistencies appear

More inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the Network North announcements made by the Prime Minister last week have been emerging, following the axing of HS2 to Crewe and Manchester (writes Sim Harris).

Rishi Sunak told the Conservative Party conference on 4 October that £36 billion will be released by scrapping Phases 2A and 2B, the sections north of Lichfield. Instead, the funds would be invested in other transport schemes.

He said: ‘I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project. And in its place, we will reinvest every single penny, £36 billion pounds, in hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands, and across the country.

‘This means £36 billion of investment in the projects that will make a real difference across our nation.’

The budget for HS2 Phases 2A and 2B would have been spent between now and about 2040, and it has been revealed that some of the projects now listed by the government will not be completed until well into the 2030s.

Many of the schemes are not ‘new’. They have been listed on previous occasions, and in some cases have been completed, such as Metrolink to Manchester Airport and Nottingham Express Transit to Clifton South. Both these extensions are listed by the government as being funded by money from HS2, but were actually opened as long as nine years ago.

The government also withdrew its initial press release issued on 4 October and replaced it with a revised version the following day. 

The first release said: ‘The Leamside line, closed in 1964, will … be reopened.’, but the rewritten version says: ‘The North East will receive around £1.2 billion from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) 2 budget, plus a further £0.7 billion on top – funded from HS2 …This money could part fund the reopening of the Leamside Line.’

In another revision, the first announcement promises ‘£100 million in funding for a Mass Transit system: to revolutionise travel in and around Bristol’.

In the second the reference to Bristol has disappeared. Instead, it says: ‘£100 million in funding for the West of England Combined Authority’. The Authority’s area includes Bristol, but it now appears to be able to decide how to spend the £100 million.

Labour shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: ‘Their back of a fag packet plan is in disarray, and this shambles shows once again the Conservatives simply aren’t serious about delivering for the North.

‘Only after 13 years of failure could the Conservatives pledge to take two decades to deliver projects they’ve already promised.

‘These are promises that have been made to the North and Midlands countless times before – and frankly they’re sick and tired of empty promises from this broken Government.

‘The truth is, catastrophic Conservative mismanagement has blown a hole in HS2 and after this fiasco, why should anyone in the North believe they can deliver anything they say?’

Reader Comments:

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

  • Greg T, London

    It's quite simple, really.
    The tories are saying the first plausible thing that comes into their heads ... sometimes, they might even be true, but that is entirely by accident!
    The complete inconsistency of their vapourings are the real give-away

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    Captive continental gauge HS trains have no tilt. Not needed with the more gentle curves of HS2, though a cheaper alignment could have been built with a lower maximum speed, or if tilt was specified. I believe the trains to be built to serve cities off the HS2 line were also specified without tilt.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    Neil, thanks for the info. re loading guages. Does anybody know if there were any intentions to utilise tilt technology in any of these ? The HS2 plans seem to have been "over the top" in respect of speeds in a relatively small country, which must have added to to the escalated cost figures.

    It appears that Spain already has managed to build several HS lines, with 3 different operators competing for the traffic on offer. Perhaps a consultation with the people involved there could be fruitful for our equivalents ?

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    Standard UK gauge trains were envisaged for routes beyond HS2, with continental gauge for routes entirely on HS2 (Birmingham Curzon Street and,er, well nowhere else now really). So presumably all new high speed trains acquired for HS2 services will now be standard UK gauge.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    A good deal is coming forth re. the new, truncated HS2 infrastructure. A whole other aspect are the trains that will use this . These are , I am told, capable of 360 kph (225 mph), and with a larger loading guage than the (British)norms.

    A consequence of this is that such trains will actually be slower than the current Pendolinos, once on convential infrastructure ( north of Lichfield). Manchester and Liverpool to London would probably end up 20 to 30 minutes quicker than presently, which probably is not very significant , with rail already being faster than aviation, on a centre to centre basis. As for London to Scotland, currently this is predicted to be a little slower than at present.

    It would seem to be looking to the big train builders (Alstom, Siemens etc.) for " off the peg"solutions,that retain a tilt capability would be a needed strategem now. ( I understand that the latest version of "Pendolino"as running on the Continent at present, can reach 250 kph [ 155 mph] . for example ).

  • John Porter , Leeds

    There is also confusion about what is proposed at Euston. The Government’s paper says
    “we are considerably upping the ambition of the Euston redevelopment, where we will be looking to establish a Development Corporation to create a transformed ‘Euston Quarter’ potentially offering up to 10,000 homes.
    32.This will accelerate the project, significantly reduce and focus its scope, and leverage private sector investment in the process. And by doing so it will release 6.5 billion of planned expenditure, which we can instead invest into the projects that people and communities really need around the country”

    However, when the government earlier this year put a two year pause on the Euston project the expected cost had hit 4.8bn while the budget was only 2.6bn”
    My suspicion is that the 6.5 billion figure allows for upgrades to Euston Classic platforms and the Government imagines a comprehensive development. Let’s hope that includes getting natural light onto the Classic platforms.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    The International Money Markets run the UK, as Liz Truss found out recently. When borrowings now make up 101% of this year's GDP and the Interest Payments on that is more than the entire UK Education Budget, you know the UK has very real money problems.