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Headline

Heathrow and HS2 in firing line of many prime minister front runners

Comment

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 [peter_styles@msn.com]

Posted date

8 June, 2019

Posted time

2:16 pm

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