MPs say HS2 project is "essential to UK's future"

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Posted by APM on 17th Dec 2013

High Speed 2The Commons Transport Committee has said the HS2 high-speed rail project is "essential" for the UK's future, claiming the potential gains considerably outweigh any risks.

It also reported the estimated cost of up to £50bn had been exaggerated, and that the link to the north of England should be speeded up.

The cost of the project is estimated at £42.6bn, with £7.5bn needed for the trains. A total of £14.56bn is contingency.

The Commons Transport Committee said: "The Department for Transport's (DfT's) communications about HS2 should emphasise that the estimated cost is £28bn, not £50bn, and that cost increases to date have largely been due to the decision to undertake more tunnelling and other work to mitigate the impact of the project on people living near the route."

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin dubbed the report "a cheerleading whitewash". He said: “Unlike the Public Accounts Committee and Treasury Select Committee hearings on HS2, it was clear that this inquiry was going to be a cheerleading whitewash when the Transport Committee only called people who support HS2 to give evidence.

“Despite the official cost of HS2 standing at £50bn, the committee wants to pretend it is £28bn, even though it said it would be £34bn in 2011. In saying this and telling the DfT it should abandon its standard assessments to improve the case for HS2, it’s effectively ordering the Government to ‘spin harder’ on HS2.”

The Government says HS2 would cut journey times between London, the Midlands and the north of England.

The first phase, from London to Birmingham, is due for completion in 2026, with a second Y-shaped section from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds due to be finished in 2032-33, but the report urged “serious thought” on building both phases simultaneously.

In July’s issue of Project magazine, the incoming chairman of HS2 Ltd Sir David Higgins – who was the chief executive of Network Rail at the time and takes over from Doug Oakervee – said if he were leading the project he’d be working to build it faster and cheaper – “a challenge for the whole industry”, he said.

The committee said Sir David should report to ministers by the end of next year “on options for speeding up HS2 so that trains run north of Birmingham on high-speed routes well before 2032-33”.

 

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