Today the Government will announce they will submit legislation to Parliament to build part of Phase 2 of HS2, but only as far as Crewe. What is now to be called ‘Phase 2a’, is now expected to be delivered by 2027, but bringing forward the completion date for just 40 miles of track will surely raise questions as to whether if HS2 is built, it would ever get further than Crewe.
It is being said that HS2 trains would be able to join the West Coast Mainline and provide reduced journey times to Manchester and Glasgow, however, this was already planned for as part of Phase 1, with HS2 linking to existing tracks at Handsacre in Staffordshire.
It is well-known that there are significant geological problems associated with the proposed HS2 route North of Crewe, which is currently planned to cross the Cheshire brine fields and active sinkholes. This route has a kink at a cost of £600m that takes the line through the brine fields, but away from the more affluent areas of George Osbornes’ Tatton constituency, which led him to be labelled locally as “The six-hundred million dog-leg man”.
In a similar vein, many areas of the proposed Eastern route of HS2 through Yorkshire and the East Midlands are subject to severe mining subsidence, which questions the viability and proposed cost of the rest of the route, which is now scheduled to be made two years after it was due to be published.
A consultation on Phase 2 of the proposed route of HS2 was completed in January 2014, and at the time results were timetabled to be published in ‘Autumn’. This deadline then became ‘Autumn 2015’, and now for the Eastern route and the Western route North of Crewe, the Government have pushed this back to making a decision in ‘Autumn 2016’.
The Government are keen to say journey times from London to Glasgow could be reduced by 48 minutes, but in October 2013, a Government-sponsored report said that the city could lose up to £77m per year as a result of HS2 being built, despite the reduced journey times to London.
Last week, the official cost of HS2 rose to £55.7bn, it was revealed that 46 staff at HS2 Ltd are paid more than the Prime Minister, and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found HS2 Ltd had committed several acts of maladministration, including an attempt to blackmail a resident in Staffordshire.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“The supposed ‘fast-tracking’ of the route to Crewe, coupled with the rising costs of HS2 and real problems with the practicality of the rest of the proposed route, will surely lead many to conclude HS2 would never get further than Crewe. Far from showing a commitment to the North of England, going ahead with this proposal punts the links to Manchester, Yorkshire and the East Midlands firmly into the long grass, and if being a rail hub equaled economic prosperity, Crewe would already be the most prosperous town the the country.”
“HS2 is abysmal value for money, and the increasingly dogmatic support for this white elephant and its’ spiralling costs is completely unfathomable. The costs of HS2 went up 11% in the Autumn Statement and with trains not due to run for over another decade, who knows where the cost of this vanity project will end up and what else will have to be cut to pay for it? A responsible chancellor would be asking serious questions about whether HS2 is really worth it, not chucking more money at a boondoggle which would only benefit the richest in society. This is simply rewarding chronic mismanagement, and signalling that there is no need for budgetary control when it comes to HS2.”
Penny Gaines Chair of Stop HS2 added:
“HS2 is clearly a white elephant. Transport in the North does need improvement, but it isn’t the links to London which are holding back the economies of the North. It’s the ability to cross the Pennines, it’s getting into city centres from local towns. This is where the money needs spending on transport, not on one big showy railway line.”
“The government were originally going to announce the whole of the Phase 2 route to Leeds and Manchester, in Autumn 2014. Apart from a small section between Birmingham and Crewe, they are not going to announce the route to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds until Autumn 2016, two years after their original timetable. They were not only widely overoptimistic with their timescales, but they also made huge, incorrect assumptions about the ground conditions in the areas they wanted to railway to pass through, and now they can’t make the pieces fit.”
“The government should make the decision to cancel HS2. There are far better uses for the money, which will have far better long and short term results.”
“The people in charge of Network Rail when the now-delayed electrification programme was being developed are now in charge of HS2. They made a mess of that, and now they are making a mess of HS2.”