Whilst the Government push ahead as quickly as possible with Phase 1 of HS2, even getting ready to start assigning contracts, maybe to deter any future Government from getting cold feet, it seems there is no rush to progress with Phase 2.
With the exception of the route from Staffordshire to Crewe, which was subject to a safeguarding consultation last year, despite the continual insistence of officials that ‘no decision has been made’ on whether a station would go to Stoke or Crewe, progress surrounding Phase 2 of HS2 has been exceptionally slow.
It has now been over a year since the route consultation on Phase 2 concluded, yet no updated route has been published. Compare this to Phase 1, where the ‘finalised’ route was published just six months after the 2011 consultation closed. That period had even been extended by a month, due to Justine Greening wanting to at least seem like she had looked at the consultation before ‘making a decision’, after she was appointed Secretary of State for Transport.
Since yesterday, there have been two reports on when different announcements concerning the East side of Phase 2 would be made, meaning the whole thing is now as clear as mud. Yesterday, The Derby Telegraph reported this:
An announcement on whether the East Midlands station for HS2 will be at Breaston or Toton will not be made until next year, an MP has revealed.
But Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, has at least confirmed that it is a straight choice between the two.
Mrs Soubry says in her latest newsletter: “The Chairman of HS2, Sir David Higgins has confirmed to me that Toton Sidings is still in the running for the site of the East Midlands hub.
“Sir David told me it is a choice between Toton and Breaston and no decision will be made until 2016.
“Sir David was keen to stress that the merits and disadvantages of both sites will be fully explored and considered and the decision will be made accordingly.
So that’s all clear, yes? They won’t decide where the East Midlands station will be for at least another year, so obviously the route can’t be decided until at least then either. Well no, as today the same Derby Telegraph had a rather different view:
It has been a day of confusion after Broxtowe MP, Anna Soubry, said in her regular newsletter that the station decision would not be made until 2016.
That prompted Councillor Robert Parkinson, who represents Breaston on Erewash Borough Council, to say the village’s residents had been “left in limbo”.
But HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins said it was the final route of the track that would not be confirmed until 2016 and that he hoped the station decision would be made by “this summer”.
He said: “There are no easy sites in the East Midlands. Both sites are on flood plains.”
That final admission about the proposed station sites highlights the problem with not just whatever station site, but whatever route might be chosen, and the common thread permeating so many of the problems with the proposed route of HS2, that so many of the decisions have been made by looking at a map, not by looking at the conditions on the ground. This, in reality is why the Breaston option came back onto the table after initially being discounted, because it was only after Toton was picked and locals pointed out the difficulties with the proposed route that HS2 Ltd noticed there were any.
But while the station site is now supposedly due to be announced ‘this summer’, the route to get there will still be a year behind that. Cynically we might say that the last thing the Government want is the bad news about any route being announced before the General Election, but the reality is that looking at the ground conditions here and elsewhere which would be expected to support a 250mph railway, the options are severely limited.