Reactions to yesterday’s announcement by the government that the £32.7bn High Speed 2 (HS2) is to go ahead have varied from the bouyant civil engineering world to the more outraged local resident groups.
The industry’s reaction was largely positive. However, the announcement was not welcomed in all corners and not just by residents living along the proposed route.
If the scheme does go ahead, a hybrid bill will be put through Parliament to enable work to being on phase 1 on HS2 in 2016. It is hoped that phase 2, which will run northwards to Leeds and Manchester, can be completed by 2033.
ICE HS2 Expert Panel chairman Steve Hayter welcomed the decision and said the opportunity should be taken to invest in a railway that is “fit for the 21st century”. Hayter added that the change in tunnel length reflected the government’s willingness to explore different engineering options to minimise the impact on those local communities must be welcomed.
Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said industry was pleased to see “broad cross-party support” for HS2, adding that the Transport Select Committee reported that no alternative to HS2 offers the necessary increased rail capacity.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner added HS2 was a “phenomenal” opportunity for the industry.
Network Rail group strategy director Paul Plummer said HS2 represents the best solution for solving the looming capacity crunch on the West Coast Main Line. Plummer added that alternative schemes to HS2 would only deliver short term capacity benefits and would come at a “heavy price” in terms of disruption to passengers and the wider economy.
Concrete paving association Britpave welcomed the news but stated its preference that HS2 must be constructed using a concrete slab track installed a ballast track system.
Labour welcomed the announcement but insisted the hybrid bill must include the whole route to Manchester and Leeds, not just to Birmingham.
Rail union RMT general secretary Bob Crow is demanding HS2 be built, and be owned and operated in the public sector “free from the greed and profiteering of the private rail companies”.
Business lobby group CBI director general John Cridland said it was “right” to plan the infrastructure for the next generation and added that the “biggest prize” would come from phase 2 linking to the North. “This will help to spread the benefits of future economic growth across the country,” he said.
RAC Foundation director professor Stephen Glaister said that while it is good news that more money is being spent on infrastructure, the business case for HS2 is “weak at best”. “There are scores of other transport projects, big and small, both road and rail, which would deliver greater benefits much sooner,” said Glaister.
51M chairman Martin Tett said the plans were “an immensely bad decision for Britain” adding “at a time of national austerity with rising unemployment and a massive deficit how can spending more than £32bn be justified. 51M is formed from a group of 18 local authorities along the HS2 route.