This week, whilst the Government were keen to try and fanfare that HS2 would deliver benefits for all and sundry, they were less keen to draw attention to the fact that HS2 will be bad news for many towns and cities across the UK.
Hidden in the documents HS2 Ltd published on Tuesday was the admission that many places would see a reduction in inter-city services as a result of the cuts required in the HS2 business plan, but it has always been the case that the vast amount of money needed for HS2 would see a cut in other projects.
Earlier this month we saw one of the first casualties, as against a trebling of the budget for Great Western Electrification, four parts of the project were ‘deferred’.
But just the day after the HS2 Phase 2b announcement, we saw the first honest-to-God cancellation, electrification of the line from Selby to Hull, and of course the worst part of the cancellation is that there was £94 million on the table from open-access train operator First Hull to go towards paying for the project.
In 2014 it was reported that “The Department for Transport is keen for the work to be taken forward as soon as possible”, as this would form part of the Governments “Northern Powerhouse” vision, meaning there would be a constant electrified line all the way from Liverpool to Hull, dubbed ‘Hullapool’. However, last year the Hull project had already been pushed back to 2020.
As recently as two months ago, Rail Minister Paul Maynard told Hull North MP Diana Johnson that he looked forward to giving her “Good news soon” on the project, but this week he cancelled it, saying that new trains meant that it wasn’t needed.
This decision comes after Maynard refused to commit last week for the Government to meet its own target of completing electrification of the Midland Mainline by 2023, which was originally due to be completed by 2020, with the electrification of the rest of the trans-Pennine route already put back from 2019 to 2022 at best. This is despite the fact Midland Mainline electrification would be essential to fulfill the promise from HS2 Ltd of having ‘classic compatible’ services running on to Sheffield, if they decide to go ahead with scrapping their original proposals for a Meadowhall station.
The justification for not going ahead with Hull-Selby electrification is exceptionally weak, as Maynard wrote:
“As a result of using dual fuelled trains, the passenger benefits listed can be delivered without the significant disruption of electrification, where passengers have had months of either complete line closure or mid-week, night and weekend closures.”
Whilst First Hull Trains has unveiled a £60 million investment in a ‘new fleet’ of bimodal trains that can to switch between electric and diesel power, they only run seven trains each way per day between Hull and London, meaning the justification that electrification is not needed because of these new trains is meaningless to the vast majority of passengers using the Hull-Selby line.
The other point to make of course is that comparing the disruption of the upgrade to the farcical attempts of Network Rail on Great Western is unfair. If First were going to do the work, maybe a better comparison would be Chiltern Railways, who have undertaken private upgrades of their line with minimal disruption.