Today Monday, 17th March Sir David Higgins launched a report into HS2 called ‘HS2 Plus’, which is intended to mark the sixth relaunch of the beleaguered project. The report, which was supposed to find ways of cutting the cost of HS2 instead says the budget can’t be reduced any further, but they will cut the link from HS2 to HS1 instead. This comes a day after the announcement of a new commuter ‘garden city’ for the area around the HS1 station at Ebbsfleet, following failure of HS1 to bring jobs to the area.
Despite claims from new HS2 Ltd chair Sir David Higgins that HS2 will promote economic growth in the north, the announcement from Government yesterday that they will build a new dormitory town in Ebbsfleet, which has a station on the HS1 line, to serve London commuters demonstrates clearly that high speed rail does not promote economic growth, and will only serve to drag more economic activity to London. Before it was built, it was claimed that the HS1 station in Ebbsfleet would promote economic growth and bring jobs to the area: this has failed to happen. The proposal that a ‘new garden city’ will now be built to serve as a dormitory town for commuters to London, should serve as a warning to cities on the proposed HS2 line expecting economic benefits. Higgins report offers no money to local authorities to develop regeneration plans around HS2.
The Higgins report mentions numerous specific connectivity problems in the north of England, which HS2 will do nothing to solve, but connectivity to Europe for the North has been dropped, by ditching the link from HS2 to HS1. The extensive powers granted in the Phase 1 Hybrid Bill, which allows the Government to compulsory purchase land far away from the railway, will be used to develop land at Crewe before the Phase 2 Hybrid Bill is passed.
For four years individuals and communities affected have been told by Hs2 Ltd that real practical problems with the effects of the HS2 plans can be resolved by petitioning to Parliament. Higgins insistence that the time spent during the Parliamentary Hybrid Bill petitioning stage could increase costs strongly suggests that he knows that dealing with these sensibly is not covered in the existing budget. Organisations planning to petition Parliament over HS2 include Centro, the West Midlands transport authority which is publicly supportive of HS2.
Joe Rukin said
“Sir David Higgins wants to say that high speed rail brings economic benefits, but the announcement that Ebbsfleet will now be home to a new dormatory suburb of London, because high speed rail there failed to deliver the economic growth which was promised, should be a warning to everyone thinking HS2 will be good for local economies. The evidence is clear, all HS2 will do is drag more economic activity to London. This should have been clear when the HS2 chief engineer said HS2 would lead to a ‘new city’ between Birmingham and Coventry, and all the other places which think new HS2 stations will be a boon should realise, all HS2 will do is increase the London commuter belt.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said
“Every attempt to find cost savings in HS2 has either resulted in upping the budget for the project, or dropping major parts of the project. Last year the Heathrow link was paused. This year Higgins, the man who left out kitchens of the athletes’ apartments for the Olympics, is leaving HS2 without a connection to Europe by dropping the link between HS1 and HS2.
“Higgins has left in the £10 billion extra contingency that was added to the HS2 budget last year. He must know where it’s been spent already and that there is no spare cash in the project. Politicians are saying that they can’t increase the costs of HS2, but the budget is already spiralling out of control. HS2 should be cancelled immediately, so the country can look at the real transport needs of the country.”
Penny Gaines added
“The need for the HS2 Phase 1 Hybrid Bill to spend time in the petitioning stage in Parliament has nothing to do with debate. On numerous occasions, communities and individuals affected have raised real practical issues about the operation or construction of HS2 and HS2 Ltd staff have fobbed them off, on the ground that these issues will be sorted out during the Hybrid Bill stage.
“Given that supporters of HS2 want to petition during the Hybrid Bill stage its clear there are some real practical problems that HS2 Ltd refuse to sort out. What Higgins now wants to do is to race this Hybrid Bill stage, because he knows that when MPs look closely at the scheme they will realise that the current budget is insufficient to solve these problems.
Joe Rukin, Campaign Manager for Stop HS2 said
“David Higgins has spent three months looking for cost savings for HS2 and he hasn’t found a single bean. Any pretense that the costs of HS2 are under control are a fraudulent attempt to con the public.
“In fact all he has done is take off the link to Europe but the costs have stayed same. Claims that HS2 needs to be built fast to avoid inflation are complete rubbish because they are ignoring inflation to use 2011 prices. The official estimate of £50.1 billion was always too low, and represents the cost if the whole project was built in one year and that year was 2011. If you use the same methods HS2 Ltd have used to calculate the benefits of HS2 and include GDP growth and inflation, you’d have to increase it by 27.7%, putting the cost of HS2 at £64billion.
“We know that these costs will continue to escalate. The only answer is to cancel the project and go back to the drawing board right now”