A senior Yorkshire local government leader has expressed fears that the northern section of High Speed 2 (HS2) will be designed for a lower line speed.
Speaking at a House of Lords economic affairs committee hearing, West Yorkshire combined authority managing director Ben Still said he was “worried and concerned” that phase 2 of HS2 could be designed for a lower train speed to cut costs. Phase 2 will run from Birmingham north to Leeds and Manchester.
The route alignment for HS2 phase 1 from London to Birmingham, is being designed for 400km/h trains, with trains limited to a maximum speed of 360km/h or 320km/h in tunnels.
But there is growing pressure to lower the line speed to 320km/h to reduce costs.
The move has been resisted by the Department for Transport for phase 1, but with the Hybrid Bill for phase 2 has not yet passed through Parliament, so the final decision for the line speed for phase 2 has still to be rubber stamped.
“We certainly wouldn’t want to see a situation where there is one design standard for the first phase up to Birmingham and then a lower design standard for the rest of the north,” said Still.
“It could happen and that would be a worry and a concern and not the most efficient thing for the railway either.”
Still then questioned why the cost of building high speed railways in the UK was so much higher on the Continent.
“I think the question that should be asked is why are our rail costs in the UK so high. I still don’t think there has been a proper response from the industry to that,” he said.
In the committee hearing, northern transport leaders pledged their support for HS2.
Transport for Greater Manchester transport strategy director Simon Warburton, Transport for the North chief executive Barry White, Transport for the North Northern Powerhouse Rail director Tim Wood, and Still all said they supported the current design speed for High Speed 2.
“From a Transport for the North perspective, we want to see it delivered in line with the current expectations and that’s what we’ll keep pushing for,” said White. “Not just for the north of England but for Scotland because we think the links into Scotland are important as well.
“I think we should be ambitious as a country and to be one which is well connected. Arguably, we should have invested in high speed rail some time ago.”
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