Mid-Term – HS2 project without a purpose

Amid much fanfare, David Cameron and Nick Clegg issued the Mid-Term Review of the Coalition yesterday.

On high speed rail, it said (p11)

“moving as rapidly as possible towards a national high speed rail network by carrying forward legislation for the first phase between London and Birmingham;”

David Cameron also mentioned HS2 in his speech.

“We’ll also set out big new steps…. extending High Speed 2 from Birmingham to the North to create a rail service that joins London to the northern cities in just under two hours, with the aim of bringing the journey from Scotland to London down to under three hours.”

Reality is different to the impressions yesterday.  The announcement of the Birmingham section northwards has been delayed several times.  Having received it in March 2012, the Department for Transport originally planned to reveal the second phase route in the autumn of 2012, but in December this was moved to the “new year”.

It’s also worth comparing it to the Coalition’s Program for Goverment, issued in 2010

“We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy. Our vision is of a truly national high speed rail network for the whole of Britain. Given financial constraints, we will have to achieve this in phases.”

Gone is the rationale to use HS2 as part of a low carbon economy – because it is not a low carbon option.  HS2 will cost £17 billion for just the London to Birmingham stretch, but even HS2 Ltd say that it is carbon neutral.  Two and a half years later, HS2 is a project with no purpose other than allowing the Government to claim it is still “investing”.

The London to Birmingham section is hugely flawed and HS2 won’t achieve what the Coalition originally wanted it to. They should have used the Mid Term Review to cancel HS2 in its entirety, rather than letting it limp on.

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