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Marshall Muddle on old infrastructure

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Railnews coverage of an upgrade of 170 year old infrastructure - the Great Western Main Line

Railnews coverage of an upgrade of 170 year old infrastructure – the Great Western Main Line

Instead of “nonsensical talk about trying to upgrade the existing 175-year-old railway infrastructure”, would it not be better to follow Baroness Kramer’s advice (wrote Railnews’s editorial director Alan Marshall on the Go HS2 weblog).

[Susan Kramer quoted by Alan Marshall]

“Let us protect the Victorian spirit that built our railroads,” she said, “but let us look for an infrastructure that is not Victorian but modern and 21st-century so that we can build the economy of the future.”

London St Pancras, which was ‘upgraded’ for HS1 trains, is 145 years old, and parts of the Midland route from St Pancras to Derby, are older still. But the Midland is being electrified as part of a multi-billion pound upgrade — which Railnews is apparently in favour of. So what point Mr Marshall was making, or why Ms Kramer used the American term ‘railroad’, is not clear. For some reason, Mr Marshall also mentioned former chancellor Norman Lamont, who is apparently opposed to HS2.

Instead of listening to economists like Dr Richard Wellings of the Institute of Economic Affairs — “who forecast HS2 could cost £80 billion by including the price of building another Crossrail in London and a new line to Liverpool that is not even planned — perhaps we should note that HS2 Ltd has actually reduced the expected cost of building the first stage from London to Lichfield, and the branch line into Birmingham”, claimed Mr Marshall.

[Alan Marshall]

[…]At the close of the recent House of Lords debate Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said HS2 Ltd “now estimates that, without any contingency, it could bring in phase 1 at £15.6 billion.” However, she added, the Transport Secretary had decided to include “a little contingency” — 10 per cent — so the target budget for the first stage, extending over some 150 miles and including more than half the route in tunnels or deep cuttings, is now £17.16 billion. This could be reduced further after Sir David Higgins takes charge of the project next year and, as Lord Heseltine proposed, there is the opportunity to offset perhaps £5 billion of the cost of stage 1 by negotiating a 30-year concession with a private sector infrastructure manager, as has happened with HS1.

The claim that HS2 Ltd have costs under control is not particularly persuasive.

HS2 engineering design work over budget (building_co_uk, 8 Nov 2013)

HS2 engineering design work over budget (building_co_uk, 8 Nov 2013)

But the notion that HS2 could involve total expenditures of around £80 billion, is quite plausible. There is bound to be strong pressure for additional mitigation of various sorts, and add-on funding for developments attached to the HS2 project. For example, schemes such as the recently proposed Birmingham — Bickenhill — Coventry Midland Metro (£800 million at the very least) could have no other purpose than attempt to provide local access to the proposed HS2 ‘parkway’ station. And the costs of additional commuter trains for Milton Keynes (so-called-released-capacity) are not in the October 2013 ‘e-Conomic’ case. Of course, the value of “a 30-year concession” to a private sector infrastructure manager is entirely dependent on the levels of guaranteed track access fees over the concession period. A large proportion, possibly a majority, of those track access fees would be from government subsidies.

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Written by beleben

November 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

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