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Grayling awaits new HS2 delivery plan

High Speed Rail 2by3

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has revealed that the new chair of High Speed 2 (HS2) promoter HS2 Ltd, Allan Cook, is undertaking a review of the  project “to make sure the costs and budget are right and that it is deliverable”.

Grayling, who spoke to New Civil Engineer at the opening of the new Meridian Water Station in North London, said Cook has been taking stock of the project since he was appointed as chair in December last year

Cook - who previously served as Atkins chairman - was drafted in after a short stint by Sir Terry Morgan. Morgan resigned as chairman of both HS2 and Crossrail when news of the Crossrail delay broke.

“What we’ve got with HS2 is a new chairman in Allan Cook who is rightly taking his first period of the project to make sure it’s in good shape to make sure the budget is right, the costs are right and that it’s deliverable,” Grayling said. “I’m really waiting for Allan [Cook] to come back to me to say this is how we’re going to take the project forward.”

Grayling added that learning from Crossrail, decisions had to be made “in the context of what is deliverable and not [focus on] decisions that are not deliverable”.

In response to whether the project would open on time, he replied “What we’ve learnt from Crossrail 1 is, let’s get the project right.”

Speaking at a House of Commons transport select committee in March, Cook said he was “committed to understanding more about what the problems were with Crossrail and actually apply them to HS2”. 

A revised business case will be published by the Department for Transport in December this year following the outcome of the government’s Spending Review.

The original combined budget for phase 1 of HS2, from London to Birmingham, and phase 2 from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, was set as £51.7bn in the 2011 Spending Review. It subsequently increased to £55.7bn in 2015.

A HS2 spokesperson said: “It is the job of the chairman and the board to keep the entire project under scrutiny, and they regularly report back to the department.”

While ruling himself out of the ongoing Conservative leadership contest, Grayling added that any successor to outgoing prime minister Theresa May, would “quickly realise” HS2 as “essential to the future of the country”. 

This is despite, Tory leadership front runners Boris Johnson, Dominic Rabb, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom all saying they would scrap HS2

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The viability of HS2 has again raised its head and those affected locally (to me) expected a substantive announcement in May, only to be disappointed. If the leadership of the Conservative party goes the way it is expected to go then the whole project could be subject to total cancellation. Over two years ago I suggested a much cheaper option (if capacity is the main objective) - that of developing a dedicated freight-only network which could be built at a fraction of the cost and which could form the basis of a new green strategy for the movement of goods across the UK.

    However, if the current concentration is on value-for-money then I suspect that aspects of the project will, very quickly, unravel. The three main options are:

    continue as planned
    total cancellation
    proceed with a truncated project based on revised benefit/cost analysis

    Of these the third would provide a possible compromise, avoiding the embarrassment of total cancellation.

    Firstly, the design speed has been the subject of much discussion and there is no doubt that a reduction from 250mph to 200mph would not greatly affect journey times. Secondly there are savings to be made if the length of the trains is amended from the current 400 meters to a more sensible 200 meters. The 400m figure is an EU requirement and partially based on the distance between the escape routes in Channel Tunnel. Since we are leaving the EU and the route is no longer connected to the Continent, this requirement is redundant. Can we develop a new 200/200 hybrid train which will enable connections between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Holyhead and Glasgow?

    Thirdly, only the London to Crewe spine provides a positive benefit/cost justification. The expensive spur running into central Birmingham, along with the new Curzon Street Station, can never be justified as a stand-alone project and could, therefore be removed from Phase 1 in order to save costs without affecting the main project. In any case, most of those willing to pay the premium ticket cost that the new route will need to charge will, by preference, use the Birmingham Interchange Station. Proposals are already in hand to connect Birmingham International to the City Centre by tram and it would cost relatively little to extend the tram line to the Interchange Station.

    The fate of Phase 2 would then be in the hands of future politicians and would be unaffected by anything above.

    Peter Styles []

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