HS2 – the challenges it faces are greater than ever

A usual summary of some of the issues of HS2, from 51M:

On 23 March the House of Commons approved the third reading of the High Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Bill. Around 90% of the Honourable Members who voted did not think it was necessary to actually attend the debate before voting. Such a relaxed approach would suggest that the challenges the project faces have diminished since first getting the go ahead in 2012.

The reality is very different. These are just some of the issues that are not going away anytime soon.  

The cost  

Back in 2012 the cost estimate for HS2 was £33bn. By November, 2015 the figure had risen to £55.7bn. This, of course, is before construction even begins.  The level of inflation in the rail sector continues to rise dramatically. For example, the scheme to electrify the London to Cardiff line was estimated to cost £874m in 2013, £1.6n in 2014 and up to £2.8bn in 2015. MPs should have asked themselves…why should HS2 be any different?

Inevitably, there is continuing pressure to expand the HS2 project (and its cost). At the present time, Sheffield City Council leads a group lobbying to change the location of the proposed HS2 station from Meadowhall to the city centre. This would add £1bn to the cost. Liverpool City Council is leading a campaign – 20 Miles More, to bring HS2 to the city.  The provisional cost is in the region of £3bn. Going forward, similar campaigns will be climbing aboard the shiny train.

Earlier this month, HS2 Ltd published its report on options for upgraded and high speed railways to the north of England and Scotland. The cost ranges between £17 and £43 billion.

The phase 2 route 

The Phase 2 route for HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds is still undecided, apart from the short section to Crewe.  The repeated delays suggest serious issues are proving extremely difficult to overcome.


It is not just phase 2 that is causing HS2 Ltd a headache. Plans for bringing the line into Euston continue to defy satisfactory solution. The present plan is for HS2 platforms to be added in two stages, taking from 2017 to 2033.  A third phase would be needed to improve the existing station for passengers on conventional trains, requiring further funding.

Unsurprisingly, the ongoing problems are adding to the cost, which now stands at £2.25bn. For the businesses and residential communities affected it will mean 20 years of misery. Even when solutions are found, the pain for the taxpayer does not end there. Once phase 2 is operational, the underground lines serving Euston will not be able to cope with the increase in passenger numbers. One answer to this could be Crossrail 2, estimated to cost up to £27bn. Even less comprehensive schemes to increase underground capacity could cost up to £10bn.

Rebalancing the North-South divide  

A key aim of the project has been rebalancing the nation’s economy and logic would suggest, in furtherance of this aim, Phase 2 of HS2 should be built before Phase 1. Also in this vein, HS3 should be built before HS2. Neither of these approaches has been adopted. As a consequence, the city to gain most from HS2, until the mid 2030s, will be London.

The government-funded report produced by KPMG in 2013 said that 50 towns and cities would be worse off as a result of HS2.

Carbon Reduction 

Supporters continue to trumpet the project’s green credentials. But HS2 Ltd’s own documents reveal not only will HS2 cause increased carbon emissions for the first sixty years of operation due to the carbon costs of building it, but also even after 120 years – that’s the year 2145 – HS2 may still be causing increased carbon emissions.  

Environmental Damage 

HS2 will cause damage to numerous wildlife sites along the route.  These include over 100 wildlife sites directly affected, 92 indirectly affected along with the loss or damage to 63 ancient woodlands.

No doubt MPs, as they voted, were content not to be troubled by such inconvenient truths.

One comment to “HS2 – the challenges it faces are greater than ever”
  1. Well,quite!
    In addition, there were maybe 39 amendments to the Hybrid Bill which Goodwill/McLoughlin refused to debate, that would be too democratic and, of course, we forget it’s the Govt’s money.
    The farce continues….

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