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HS2 affordability and manageability ‘under review’

with 6 comments

In November 2013 the government announced that David Higgins would become chairman of HS2 Ltd, and would ‘drive down’ the costs of the project. But Mr Higgins completely failed to drive down costs, and his future at HS2 is uncertain. In an April 2016 jobs bulletin, the government announced the chairmanship of HS2 as a ‘forthcoming opportunity’.

Britain’s most senior civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, has been reviewing HS2 since March 2016 as fears grow that it cannot be built within its £55bn budget, The Guardian reported.

[Top UK civil servant reviews HS2 project, Mark Leftly, The Guardian, 2 May 2016]

Heywood, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, has been quietly investigating HS2 in an effort to cut costly elements. He is expected to report to ministers by the summer. Campaigners opposed to the project believe this could lead to less compensation for businesses and homeowners whose properties are affected by construction.

[…] There was an increase of nearly £10bn in 2013 and recently a £5bn increase to reflect inflation.

Officials and ministers are increasingly concerned that the budget could still be exceeded, even though links to the Channel Tunnel rail link (HS1) and Heathrow airport have previously been removed to cut costs. Heywood has been undertaking the review as part of work led by the government’s newly formed Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

A source close to HS2 said: “From what I understand, Sir Jeremy doesn’t give a stuff about the timetable, it’s about costs and what we can cut out to make it cheaper.”

A senior rail source said: “[…] There are things that can be cut, like engineering work north of Birmingham that becomes redundant when a link to Crewe is built in 2027.

[…] Heywood’s review has been one of the causes of a second delay to another piece of Cabinet Office work, review point one [RP1], which will evaluate whether the 1,300-person team behind the project, HS2 Ltd, is fit to manage it.

‘Engineering work north of Birmingham’ presumably refers to HS2’s connection to the classic line at Handsacre. In October 2014, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the Express & Star that ‘Stafford and Staffordshire would benefit from the connection between the West Coast Main Line and HS2 at Handsacre’. Deleting the link would be unlikely to have much impact on the overall cost of HS2.

Spiegel Online: 'Lower speed means dramatically reduced energy consumption, and lower wear and tear on rolling stock, track and overhead lines'

The best way to ‘save money on HS2’, would be ‘not to build HS2’. In Germany, most of the high speed network is based on existing track, and future services will run at 249 km/h, or less. Lower speed means dramatically reduced energy consumption, and lower wear and tear on rolling stock, track and overhead lines.

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Written by beleben

May 2, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

6 Responses

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  1. Audit Surcharge needs to be brought back in order to give the public a remedy, without it, the economy may be damaged beyond repair, public confidence is also important.

    L Smith

    May 2, 2016 at 9:37 pm

  2. This whole sorry project needs to be stopped and restarted the right way round. Begin with a strategy and an audit of the resources we already have in place, then a proper survey, of what actually needs to be build on virgin ground and what needs to/can be done with existing ground – saving a small fortune in legal and compensation costs.

    Then, with the strategic plan it may well be possible to progress work incrementally in smart ways, to maximise each deliverable gain with the minimum advancing increment. An interesting model here is the EGIP project in Scotland, where steadily lines have been added, and improved, in little stages, so that the current closure of the Queen Street High Level Station has substantially less impact because the line is now open between Airdrie and Bathgate AND the connection at Anniesland allows High Level trains to loop round via Low Level, and a few further wrinkles which permit trains to keep running whilst the engineers take over the regular routes.

    Given the fact that prior to the WCML electrification the faster premium route (used by the Birmingham Pullman) ran from Paddington, and a high speed connection (at Wembley making most sense) could deliver the facility to reach Coventry and beyond without the 45 minute time penalty of crawling around West London at 25 mph or less there should be some key interventions on the routes to the Midlands.

    1) Reclaiming the long abandoned route from How Wood which branched over to the Midland Main Line and run through services from, Watford Junction to St Albans City, and offering the potential to divert trains via this route

    2) Electrify Bletchley-Bedford – make use of extended Tring services to provide trains.

    3) MML electrification to Leicester

    4) Infill wiring Coventry-Nuneaton (bypass for Rugby-Nuneaton & ready for trains diverted via Banbury)

    5 Infill wiring Nuneaton-Wigston (bridges already lifted for Felixstowe container route) Gets a route to by-pass WCML with options to go in to Euston or St Pancras for MML or WCML services, allowing major work to take over for long and cost-effective work windows.

    Obviously the classic routes also have 2-3 serious speed constraints Morpeth/Carlisle/Newcastle/Preston/York/Stafford and slightly large number of capacity/speed limiting junctions that are substantially less contentious to remove, (eg Nuneaton, Norton Bridge, Werrington (proposed)) which should make it possible with the 140mph long planned for ECML and WCML line speeds to have a 3 hour London-Scotland journey time.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    May 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

  3. Not sure that Dave’s suggested upgrades for the WCML are necessary. London Midland have published a pamphlet entitled “May 2016 changes to train services, 30th April to 29th May” in respect of follow up works to the new Norton Bridge flyover.
    This states “These works will remove the last remaining bottleneck that causes delays on the WCML, leading to a more reliable and potentially faster and more frequent service in the future.”
    Job done!

    strawbrick

    May 3, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    • The November 2015 HS2 Strategic Case technical annex identified listed “Flat junctions at Ledburn and Hanslope” as ‘constraints’. In the view of the Beleben blog, dive-unders to the north and south of Milton Keynes would be worth the money. The cost of things like grade-sep and 700-seat-in-260-metre intercity trains, is a pittance compared to HS2.

      beleben

      May 3, 2016 at 5:46 pm

  4. It seems that those who in 2009 wanted to “future proof” HS2 by designing it for 400kph were not very good at predicting the future or at working out how damaging and costly it would be to design for such speeds. 400kph trains would save one minute compared to the 360kph ones currently proposed, which would all have to be replaced. One only has to compare the Consultation plans with the latest plans to see what a con it was to suggest that it would only cost 9% more to construct than a 200kph line when the true figure must be at least 30% and possibly a lot more. I am convinced that HS2 is just as bad at predicting the future demand unless most trains from parallel routes are removed to cut the competition, which I am sure would be a popular move with the politicians.

    Definitely time for a review. Lets invite the Germans or Swiss to kick this box of boiling frogs off the rails. I suggest a timetable driven scheme to deliver frequent consistently reliable journey speeds of around 80 to 100mph between ALL major cities and large towns at regular intervals. More importantly, the introduction of good urban transport systems, fully integrated with the railway stations, would bring much greater benefits to the majority of the population.

    johnma

    May 4, 2016 at 6:37 pm

  5. What beleben did not highlight is that DB’s newest/latest/most up-to-date generation of ICEs will run at a maximum i.e. optimised speed of 250km/hr i.e. 155mph “which follows a worldwide industry trend”. Of course, GB knows better than DB so we will forge ahead on the path to glory. Or it perhaps explains why DH wants to jump ship again.
    Ich verstehe alles – ich bin ein Berliner.

    mcMichael

    May 4, 2016 at 9:10 pm


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