For months there have been rumours of the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan. Just like HS2 itself this has been postponed and delayed this year from ‘before the end of Spring’. The current rumours are saying ‘Thursday’ so there is a lot of press speculation at the moment.
No government flunkeys have whispered in Stop HS2’s ears about the plans, nor have we seen the Integrated Rail Review. We are currently relying on what other people are saying they’ve been told – and we’ve heard plenty of rumours before which turned out to be wrong.
The BBC says
“the government is set to argue its new plans will deliver comparable benefits and be quicker and cheaper.”
Will HS2 Phase 2b East be dropped?
This section of HS2, from the West Midlands to Leeds, has been officially ‘paused’ for some months.
Depending on which media you read, there are suggestions that there will be two sections of high speed line instead, one would run between Leeds and Sheffield and another from Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway. As the Guardian says that there would be “a puzzling non high-speed gap of 50 miles between the two new lines“.
It would of course be crazy to build a new High Speed rail line that doesn’t link up with other bits of High Speed Rail (although HS2 does not link up with HS1, so maybe HS2 engineers think it perfectly sensible).
However when you look closer at the numbers, it looks like these new high speed lines would not be the HS2 proposal. The HS2 journey planner says that Birmingham Curzon Street to East Midlands Rail Hub would take 20 minutes, but the Guardian says it would take 27 minutes.
So one possibility is that these line would not be ‘HS2’ lines, but possibly existing rail lines upgraded and rebranded.
£96bn rail package
Another rumour swirling is that there will be a £96bn rail package. The Mail on Sunday said
Sources said that the raft of new lines and improvements would cut journey times and increase services across the Midlands and the North, merging separate schemes such as HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Engine Rail into one single network.
The package, which has been costed at more than £96 billion, will cut journey times between the North and London and between the major conurbations – the time from Manchester to Leeds on the Transpennine Route is expected to be cut by 20 minutes.
What better way of hiding costing overruns and schedule delays than by combining several different schemes and giving them a new budget and timescale?
The budget for HS2 is around £100bn for Phases 1, 2a and both legs of Phase 2b. But if you put all of Phases 2a and 2b into a new scheme, drop parts, add in new parts and wave a magic wand, suddenly many of the costs overruns and schedule problems are hidden.
Lets face it the Infrastructure and Projects Authority gave HS2 phase 2b a ‘red’ rating, which means they think “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable”. This is in spite of ‘resetting’ the project last year.
£96 billion is remarkably similar to the most recent expected cost for HS2, so presumably the cost of HS2 Phase 1 will now be a separate budget line, possibly increased to offset the cost of descoping.
So now we wait.