On Monday, flanked by David Cameron and George Osborne, Sir David Higgins will attempt to restate the case for HS2, ignoring the calls for stations from Liverpool and Stoke, ignoring the calls from Leeds and Sheffield to move the proposed station sites, moving the East Midlands station into the middle of a flood risk area, and announcing that a new station would be built a couple of miles south of the current Crewe station.
Whilst Higgins was meant to look for cost savings when he was brought in to HS2, he is not expected to say he has found any cost savings, and just this week it was revealed that the cost of contracts to be tendered for on Phase 1 of HS2 have risen by 11% or £1.15bn.
At the same time, George Osborne is expected to announce plans for ‘HS3’ from Leeds to Manchester which with an estimated cost of £7bn for just 40 miles would actually be more expensive than HS2 at £175m per mile. HS2 at £50.1 for 351 miles works out as £143m per mile. ARUP reported earlier in the year that a new Trans-Pennine route could be built for £110m, or just £10m per mile by restoring the Skipton-Colne line.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“Whatever David Higgins announces, it will be clear that the original plans for HS2 weren’t thought through properly. Changing the mess that is phase two doesn’t change the fact that phase one is still a complete mess, as is the entire concept of HS2.”
“We have been saying since the start that if you want to help regenerate the north, you would spend the money there, and the very last thing you would do is make it quicker to get to London. Up until now, northern cities have been offered HS2 or nothing, now there is something else on the table, which would actually help the north, support for HS2 will crumble. The proposal for HS3 is just an admission that HS2 will not deliver the growth for the North which has been promised and a load of new stuff is needed to make HS2 work, but this will still not provide connectivity and focuses on just two cities.”
“Typical of the Government, with HS3 they have come up with the highest cost solution, at £175m per mile, it would be even more expensive than HS2. Just this year ARUP reported that a new trans-pennine route could be created for just £110m by restoring 11 eleven miles of track between Skipton and Colne. Restoring that and the Woodhead route from Sheffield to Manchester could be done for between 5 and 10% of the £7bn George Osborne is talking about, and if it’s all about delivering capacity in a time of austerity, that’s what the Government would be doing, but it seems they prefer overly expensive vanity projects instead.”
“David Higgins was brought in with a brief of cutting the costs of HS2, but instead he is adding bits, with yet another out of town station. The bizarre justification is that supposedly making Crewe a rail hub will make it prosperous. If that were true, Crewe would already be one of the richest places in the country.”
“Despite the fact the HS2 Phase 2 consultation concluded in January, David Higgins is not reporting back on that, he is just attempting to tout a discredited business case again. While the Government are trying to gamble that HS2 will be a vote winner, they have decided not to publish the final route until after the election, because they know it is a vote loser.”