High Speed 2 (HS2) has been accused of value engineering out tunnels in the Northern leg of the route by protesters against the project.
Anti-HS2 Labour MP Dennis Skinner raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, claiming communities in the North - those on the HS2 Phase 2b West Midlands to Leeds leg - were being unfairly treated.
He said: “Is the prime minister aware there has been some very powerful research done on the question of high speed rail. What it says is that in the leafy suburbs of the south, the first 140 miles [225km], 30% of it has been dedicated to tunnelling to avoid knocking houses down.
“Yet in the North we are now told that the percentage (of tunnels) is only 2% for the whole of the North. Why? Because HS2 says it’s ’too costly, knock the houses down.”
He then called for the PM to meet with communities to avoid the possibility of houses being knocked down, saying: “Isn’t it high time that this government stopped treating our people like second class citizens.”
In response prime minister Theresa May said she was “sure the Department for Transport (DfT) will be happy to look into the question raised” and went on to defend the importance of HS2 because of the capacity it will add and its contribution to the economy.
Jonathan Pile, chair of Crofton Against HS2 and coordinator of Yorkshire Against HS2, told New Civil Engineer that his research had found that on the Phase 1 route from London to Birmingham, 29% is tunnel. However, from the West Midlands to Manchester it is 21% and then the West Midlands to Leeds leg it is just 2%.
He said: “We estimate £3.8bn has been saved (on the West Midlands to Leeds leg) and the total over eastern and western leg £5.5bn. To say the North is hacked off by this is an understatement.”
His estimates are based on a cost calcuation of £73M per km of tunnel.
Pile said scrapped tunnel projects included a 9.5km tunnel under Mexborough in Yorkshire, which will now see 16 homes demolished to make way for the scheme. He said they had also asked rail minister Paul Maynard for an 8km tunnel under Pile’s home village of Crofton, near Wakefield.
”If it (the West Midlands to Leeds route) was as mitigated as much as down in London, the whole viability of the project would come crashing down,” he said.
An HS2 spokesperson said: “HS2 will deliver major benefits to the Yorkshire region. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to dramatically improve journeys between the Midlands and the North, and London, boosting capacity, improving connectivity and helping to rebalance the national economy. It is also becoming integral to local plans to drive business growth, create jobs and secure investment years before it arrives.
“We are at the very early stages of design for the route through South and West Yorkshire and are committed to working with communities and stakeholders to identify appropriate solutions to further reduce impacts.”
Pictured is an aerial image of what Leeds Station could look like.