Whenever Stop HS2 campaigners say the money earmarked for HS2 would be better spent on current infrastructure, the stock answer from HS2 supporters is “we are”, and that a massive rail upgrade programme is planned for the rest of the network. However, it now seems that these are under threat because under the stewardship of David Higgins and Simon Kirby, who have both now moved from Network Rail to HS2 Ltd, ongoing projects are already over-budget.
In May, Mark Carne, the new chief executive of Network Rail admitted that the plan to electrify the Great Western line has already gone over its’ one billion pound budget, and that the scheme was under review due to rising costs, whilst just last week the Transport Select Committee was told by Paul Plummer, Network Rail’s strategy director that: “I can’t give you that absolute, categorical confirmation.” that electrification of the Trans-Pennine route from Manchester to York would go ahead, again due to rising costs.
Currently the Liverpool-Manchester section of the line is being electrified, and work has already begun on other sections with bridges being raised to allow power lines to be fitted. Funding for Trans-Pennine electrification was announced in 2011, but now Network Rail has admitted there are ‘no firm costings’ for the scheme and they will make a decision next March when they know the ‘full costings’.
Another costs which Network Rail have just incurred, due to poor performance while Higgins and Kirby were in charge, is a £53 million pound fine for poor punctuality. This fine would have been around the £70 million mark, but allowances were made for the damage caused during the storms earlier this year.
In one of the best ironies you could possibly hope for, this money is earmarked to be spent on destroying the fundamental bedrock of the business case for HS2, that no-one works on trains. The money will go towards providing better wifi signals on trains going into London from Bedford, Brighton, Kent and Portsmouth, as well as services into Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.