On Monday 16th July, as the Stop HS2 campaign will be holding a day of action with a rally outside Parliament (12-2pm), the Coalition Government have announced a rail investment package, representing the ‘last chance saloon’ for alternative investments before HS2 construction spending will eat up the lions share of DfT infrastructure spending for decades.
Today it was announced the long-awaited electrification of the Midland Mainline, which will both negate the supposed need for HS2 and tear further strips of an already incredibly shaky business case. Also the reinstatement the Oxford-Milton Keynes east-west line was confirmed following the announcement by George Osborne in November 2011. This line will not only remove the need to travel between these cities via London, but also down to the south coast, taking pressure off the West Coast Mainline and diminishing the case for HS2.
The view that electrification of the Midlands Mainline could damage the case for HS2 was first mooted in December 2009 by HS2 Ltd Chief Engineer Andrew McNaughton, who in an email to the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive said;
“I think there has to be care not to undermine a very strong business case for a proper high speed line by proposing an investment in an intermediate solution which gives a proportion of the benefits and potentially allows government to say ‘they have got part of what they wanted so the priorities now move elsewhere.’”
Director of the Campaign for High Speed Rail, Professor David Begg has also commented previously that the electrification of the Midland Mainline would be more use than HS2 to people who live in Nottingham.
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“Even proponents of HS2 have admitted that Midland Mainline electrification diminishes a great deal of the point of having HS2 and further wrecks the business case. A regenerated Varsity (East-West) Line could connect up with the end of the Great Central Line which, if the DfT were paying attention would give them another path from Milton Keynes into London. This would relieve pressure on the WCML and further remove the need for HS2.”
“Incremental improvements like addressing the massive gaps in electrification are more beneficial to more people than HS2, can be provided more quickly at a far lower cost and unlike HS2, have environmental benefits. Investing in the existing infrastructure is simply a far better option, as this can deliver real benefits to more parts of the country. Up until now, Justine Greening has been berating the sorts of improvements we have been suggesting and she is now implementing as ‘make do and mend’, while trying to defend the case for HS2 as the ship has been sinking. By announcing these alternative rail packages, Justine Greening as torpedoed it.”
“If HS2 is going to go ahead, todays announcement pretty much signals the last chance saloon for other rail projects to get the go ahead in the next 20 years, as if the spending on the construction of HS2 gets the go-ahead, nothing else will get a look in.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said;
“Stop HS2 have been saying for a long time that Incremental improvements like these to the existing rail network will bring more benefits to more people more quickly. In comparison, with HS2 the taxpayer has to spend at least £17 billion and endure 8 years of disruption at Euston before the first train runs. Changes to the Midland Mainline, mean there will be another option for travellers from the north to London.”
“With the opening of the East West line passengers will no longer have to travel to London to go between Oxford and Milton Keynes. But this just shows the blinkered thinking behind the HS2 proposal. Rather than incorporate an interchange station on the East-West rail line, HS2 Ltd have already eliminated the possibility, by rejecting stations at Milton Keynes, Bicester and Aylesbury.”
A map showing current electrification on the UK rail network can be found at here.