Wigan Spur Wobbles

Project Managers with projects that are likely to come in over budget have a number of options. They can ask for more money, they can dip into the contingency budget – or they can descale the project by dropping bits off (the athletes flats in the Olympic Village had no kitchens – another project run by David Higgins).

HS2 has already had the link to HS1 dropped, and the Heathrow spur has been ‘paused’ for a very long time as well.

It seems David Higgins is planning to ditch the spur from Manchester to Wigan as well.

The spur was the topic of Transport questions in Parliament last week, when it also came out that this particularly bit of HS2 will cost far more than even the typically over-optimistic wider economic benefits:

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): What estimate he has made of the benefit-cost ratio of the High Speed 2 line north of Manchester. [907137]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): The Department has not estimated the case for the western leg of the Y-shaped route for High Speed 2 without the connection to the west coast main line north of Manchester. However, preliminary analysis undertaken by HS2 Ltd suggested that this section of the line is likely to provide revenue of about £600 million and wider benefits in the order of £1.2 billion.

David Mowat: The Minister will be aware that the recent HS2 route review stated that the Wigan spur was under review. Subsequently, HS2 leadership has stated that its recommendation is that the Wigan spur be dropped, saving £2 billion with no detrimental impact on the business case. When will there be an announcement that will clear all of this up?

Mr Goodwill: Certainly all those options are under review. Indeed, in Sir David Higgins’s report “HS2 Plus” he talked about the need to speed up phase 2 and get the Crewe section by 2027, not 2033, with that new integrated hub at Crewe. Connections to the east coast main line and west coast main line are important to ensure that people further north of Manchester and Leeds can benefit from HS2. Further announcements will be made in due course.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): On cost-benefit analysis of rail infrastructure and the Wigan spur, does the Minister agree that investment in the Tondu loop to deliver a half-hour instead of an hourly interchange at the Maesteg-Llynfi line would be far better in terms of cost? Will he meet me and Network Rail to discuss the Tondu loop, for which we have been waiting five years?

Mr Goodwill: Yet another wonderful scheme on which the previous Government failed to deliver. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), will be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss that particular scheme.

The Warrington Guardian had more details in an article published online on 1st January:

In a meeting in the House of Commons [in December] the chief executive of HS2, David Higgins, told MPs the spur, which would cost £1billion alone, ‘no longer makes sense’.

And he said it would now be reconsidered.

The route is set to be confirmed in the new year when the decision is likely to be confirmed….

…No timescale has been given for the route to be confirmed, but it is likely to be before the election the Warrington Guardian understands.

We don’t think anything about HS2 makes sense and we’re not holding our breath for any announcements!

9 comments to “Wigan Spur Wobbles”
  1. Well I guess it would be a bit bonkers to spend a lot of money “now” building something if its only purpose would be as part of a new line to Scotland which might itself never be built !

    • KNC, you mean rather like the M6 that stopped short of Kendle, or the M5 which turned 270 degrees near Tewkesbury and sent southbound travellers off towards Ross, the MI, “London to Birmingham motorway” which stopped somewhere between Daventry and Northampton, and the good old A41(M)past Tring, the Preston Bypass, Doncaster Bypass, all remembered with fond affection…

      I wonder whatever happened to them all…

      • Indeed @John Webber

        It may well be that the spur linking HS2 back to the WCML north to Scotland is deferred, a sacrificial lamb for purely pragmatic reasons of a) total project headline budget reduction and b) short term electoral advantage (Warrington South constituency is a key marginal) but the underying rationale remains as strong as ever.

        The link from Manchester northwards to Scotland is pivotal to creating a more balanced less London-centric network of new lines – add HS3 into the equation and it becomes more compelling still

      • Or the A1(M) which has plenty of 2 lane bottleneck stretches. Or the M5 which stops at Exeter rather than continuing to the larger population centre of Plymouth.

        What you forget is that there is already a perfectly decent service between Glasgow / Edinburgh and London. It can be speeded up a bit with additional investment. I’m sure you would tell me that the building of HS2 would itself speed it up.

        I suspect you fill find that a new line north of Manchester would never be justified.

        Or perhaps with all this devolved money the Scots could pay for it themselves. Better still if Leese manages to make Manchester an independent fiefdom with control over transport spending let them use some of that money to pay for HS2.

    • Funny. We still haven’t seen a “compelling” case for the Wigan spur or the extension of HS2 up to Scotland or, come to that, for HS2 itself.

      I’d rather spend the money on the Schools’ building programme. That really would be an investment in the country’s future.

      The recent £ 2 bn announced by Nick Clegg is a paltry amount and a tiny fraction of the £ 78 bn that would be required to bring all of our Schools up to a decent standard. In Coventry there were 10 schools that thoroughly and professionally bid for desperately needed money but not one got any. Of course we had widespread media releases showing a handful of happy head teachers who had had successful bids. Made me think of the hype around the HS2 college.

      I repeat, there is no guarantee that HS2 will ever be extended to Glasgow and/or Edinburgh. Even KPMG might struggle to make a BCR case.

      If it ever did get built let’s pray it doesn’t go the same way as the Edinburgh tram project.

  2. Yes, it looks like a serious wobble! But on the Wigan (or Golborne) Spur, we are conscious that credit needs to go, not just to David Mowat MP, but to the five action groups along the line who for the last two years have successfully challenged and demolished all the arguments given for this unnecessary addition to the main line to Manchester. It is absurdly costly and destructive, and the only remaining argument from the government is that it would form the main line to Scotland. Up the west coast? They must be mad.

    • Marion, I was fascinated by what you said, but also by what you left unsaid.
      “…it would form the main line to Scotland. Up the west coast? They must be mad.”
      Please can you explain?
      Can you point out the specific details of this “madness” so we may understand the particular aspect that is so crazy. You may well be right!

  3. HS2 are short of budget and agreeing to raod bypass schemes requires cutting scope elsewhere and particularly in suburban areas. What are tricks used too

    Suggest the people and authorities impacted by this ducking out to enable the budget to be transferred elsewhere take the matter to the Committee of Petitions of the European Parliament. Engage the MEPS to represent your interests.

    Petitions – European Parliament

    Such petitions give the European Parliament the opportunity of calling attention … The Committee on Petitions is composed of 34 Members and is headed by a …

    Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament

    For information about the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, please visit the website of the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions.

    The European Parliament’s
    Committee on Petitions
    Through its Committee on Petitions, the European Parliament deals with
    petitions relating to matters falling within the EU’s field of activity. Petitions
    cover a very broad range of issues, from environmental concerns to
    discrimination and delay. Parliament can draw attention, through petitions,
    to infringements of European citizens’ rights by a Member State, local authority,
    or other public institution.

    Parliament’s Committee on Petitions
    received several petitions claiming that a
    road the Polish authorities were planning
    to build across the Rospuda Valley would
    cross eco-sensitive areas and seriously
    encroach upon other areas protected
    under EU law. An investigation confirmed
    this claim, and also found that the Polish
    authorities had failed to demonstrate that
    they had properly examined alternatives
    to the planned route. On this basis, the
    Committee prepared a report, calling for
    a change to the plans. With this and its
    own findings, the European Commission
    requested that the Court of Justice of the
    European Union halt the project while
    it considered its legality. The actions of
    both the Committee and the Commission,
    combined with domestic legal pressure,
    resulted in a decision by the Polish
    authorities not to build the road through
    the Rospuda Valley.

  4. But the spur would surely be a way to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh directly to Manchester. But no, the HS2 dream is that future connection will suffice via the cross Pennine via Berwick route, so much more scenic, after all.
    And, of course, Pete needs to be able to step on at Bank Quay (memo: must get them to install lifts for wheelchairs by 2027 – “I’ll be 80” – Rock on!).
    HS2 – Future Proofed – W’95 claimed it was but only Hell is certain.

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