HS2 delays, but no delay

With Parliament returning from its summer recess today, its inevitable that the Parliamentary plans for the next year would get some attention. And it turns out that those plans do not include the Phase 2b HS2 bill being presented to Parliament.

The Times reported on Monday that says Phase 2b bill will delayed until 2020 saying

The Times has learnt that the legislation needed to pave the way for the second
section of HS2 to serve northern England has been put on hold for a year.”

This is apparently to ensure that HS2 will be linked into the proposed East-West rail-link across the Pennines, which is still in the planning stages. However apparently neither the delay to the bill, nor the fact that Pennines route is unfinished and unpublished will affect the 2033 opening date – or so say the Times’ source.

In their normal grandiose way, the Department for Transport confirmed to the Times:

“The Department for Transport confirmed that the hybrid bill was being paused
to take account of “northern powerhouse rail”, the east-west network linking
Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.

To maximise the huge potential of HS2, it is important to take full account of
the emerging vision for the other transformative project of northern powerhouse
rail,” a spokesman said. “Phase 2b of the railway will connect the great cities of
the north to boost jobs, housing and economic growth, and remains on track to
open in 2033.”

Within hours of the Times article, the Government announced that the Managing Director of Phase 2b, Paul Griffiths, in not merely leaving the company, but also leaving the country.

In a statement which must surely have been prepared before the Times report of delays, Paul Griffiths said:

Seeing HS2 move considerably closer to reality has been a privilege and will always have a special place in my career. HS2 is vital for the future of Britain and I will always be proud to have been part of its development.

Meanwhile, in the bizarre soap opera of Lord Adonis’ transport projects, he is now complaining that Sir Terry Morgan is being moved as chair from Crossrail (where last week it was announced that the opening was being delayed from this December to next autumn) to HS2 (opening date unaffected by all delays and problems besetting the project).

Construction News reports Adonis as saying

“Mr Grayling appointed Sir Terry, chair of Crossrail, to be chair of HS2 earlier this
summer without telling anyone he was walking away from a project that was clearly
failing. I think Sir Terry should be sent back to Crossrail to sort out the mess.”

“…And the transport secretary in charge took the chair away from the project and put him
in charge of an even bigger one, but one that is less immediately urgent – because it’s
not due to open imminently like Crossrail.”

In slightly older news,  Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, wrote to the Guardian in August

“HS2 remains on track and within its funding envelope, and there is no government report that suggests otherwise.”

Is it churlish to point out that there is no government report saying HS2 is on time and budget either?

Finally in an exchange that got little notice at the time, House of Lords Transport minister Baroness Sugg was not quite as gung-ho on HS2’s future in a Parliamentary debate in July as some might expect. Having said that HS2 Ltd were preparing an updated cost estimate and business case for Phase 1, she went on to say

HS2 is preparing a full business case, which will be the robust and comprehensive assessment of the scheme. That will inform the next phase of the project, when we assess whether it is correct to continue.”

For a long time, HS2 has looked like an unstoppable runaway train.  The big question is it going to run off the tracks in the next few months?

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