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When were ministers informed that HS2 could not be delivered on time and on budget?

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The National Audit Office has today published its latest report on the High Speed Two project.

The focus of the report is on HS2 phase one. According to NAO, “In March 2019, HS2 Ltd formally advised the Department for Transport that it would not be able to deliver Phase One of the programme on time or within available funding”.

National Audit Office, High Speed Two, A progress update, outline, 24 Jan 2020

What no-one seems to be asking, is whether ministers or the Department had been ‘informally’ advised by HS2 that it would not be able to deliver phase one, prior to March 2019.

HS2 minister Nusrat Ghani 'standing condidently' on HS2 budget

BBC News, 'HS2: Ministers and bosses knew railway was over budget years ago', Tom Burridge, 27 August 2019


Written by beleben

January 24, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Posted in HS2

One Response

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  1. Stepping back it becomes clear that the problems with the continual changes, in scope, delivery, and even final route at this stage suggest that HS2 is the ‘capacity’ project (with the speed element making no improvement on ‘real’ journeys on the current nework – its even going to be slower London-Scotland) which the ENGLISH Government has floundered around with through its sheer scale and fixation with a one-shot ‘biggest in Europe’ image. By contrast the Scottish Government, over the past 15 years, has delivered a portfolio of strategically linked smaller projects – notably but not exclusively EGIP Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvements Programme, with 2 reopened lines (Alloa and Galashiels) and a third (Leven) authorised, plus main line upgrades Perth-Inverness, and Aberdeen-Inverness, and a ‘next in pipeline’ EGIP link to improve resilience, and provide for a future Edinburgh Airport station. All small manageable projects, with some flexibility in scheduling which have kept smaller specialist teams provided with a steady flow of work, which has refined their ability to deliver to time and budget, and with innovation, which cut the cost of the Parsley Canal electrification from an estimated £24m to under £12m by avoiding expensive works on 2 bridges.

    The EGIP deal has included the plan for trains, so that we now have 5 main routes, between Edinburgh and Glasgow (compare this against just one route to Brighton, or Milton Keynes) a fleet of 70 standard 100mph trains runs on 4 of those routes, and upgraded trains on the remaining one, delivering 15 trains per hour between the 2 main cities, and covering services from North Berwick to Ayr. Compare this resilience and flexibility against the ‘Brighton Main Line’ – so easily blocked, and often closed with bus replacement for engineering work. With EGIP the main Glasgow Queen Street High Level station was closed for 6 months whilst the re-opened route to Low Level, and the restored connections elsewhere maintained rail services either to the Low Level station or Glasgow Central this is how an alternative to HS2 CAN be delivered.

    The Welsh Government is now following suite along similar lines, and of course Ulster has always run its 5ft 3in gauge railway as a separate detail since the LMS took on the operations for the Northern Counties Committee in 1923, the modern Translink being the only integrated road and rail operation for the 4 Nations.

    Westminster’s bipolar disfunction, sometimes the Parliament for the British Union, sometimes the English Parliament, muddles the ability to make rational decisions as well, as it struggles with EVEL in an attempt to deal with some (but not all) English matters, and the likes of NAO have to straddle their remits that can relate to UK expenditure, English matters, or a mix of both?

    The downfall of HS2 contractors, and prospective contractors such as Carillion, and the glaring inaccurracies and failures in surveying, land acquisition, and civil liabilities to those who have yet to be compensated for loss or harm being delivered is its very scale, and the success by comparison of how Scotland has quietly delivered this must surely highlight why the HS2 project MUST be stopped and replanned – with some key changes, which break down the work onto smaller deliverable packages, with regional equivalents to EGIP.

    As an example of either the lack of/disconnection in forward thinking or naievete of the HS2 project is the sheer scale of the earth & stone movements required. – an estimated 600 road tipper trucks (so c.2000 drivers if multiple shifts, holidays and legal hours operations?) plus a similar number of off-road dump trucks, and huge quantities, all sought at once and at short notice….. when the population of UK-based drivers approaches a cliff edge of retirement, with the only option of importing skills, if these are available, from outside the UK. This was also apparent with Crossrail, when running across survey and monitoring teams recruited from across Europe – something we’ll soon find a bit more difficult, for a variety of reasons.

    So for the breaking down of the task in the UK – lets look at delivering what Messrs Khan, Burnham, and Street have been keen to grasp, and what Steve Rotherham can happily point to as the Scousers’ Success

    For a start I’d suggest the Cross Pennine Hull-Liverpool spine (for which the Woodhead Route was originally built as a near direct line for freight between Mersey and Humber ports). That 16 mile gap between Hadfield and Penistone practically matches Airdrie-Bathgate with the route secured by a cycle path.

    A Midlands package, delivering a single 18-20 platform Central Birmingham Station with 400m platforms, 3 separate routes in from London – to every platform, and flexible ways out to the other points of the compass.

    Then a Home Counties Ox-Cam arc so that the radial routes from Liverpool Street-Cambridge to Paddington-Oxford have connected resilience so that traffic on one route can be closed or diverted across to the next parallel one – with 12 x 125mph tracks available rather than the 4 on each of the insular Midland, West Coast and Chiltern routes (Chiltern was planned with land and powers for a high speed 4-track railway in 1906, most remains in place, even where only 2 tracks are currently in place).

    A North Downs resilience package can remove freight traffic from South London’s commuter lines, and provide a clean ‘spine’ run from Dollands Moor to Reading, with links (by more than one route) to Southampton and the West, parallelling the GWR route. It can also ‘enable’ the delivery of routes around Brighton Main Line closures, notably at Dorking, where despite a 500 metre hike, ORR reports a third of passengers at Dorking Deepdene ‘transferring’ … from Dorking Main, as a route to Gatwick, with the option of delivering a planned (1924) connection and direct trains.


    January 26, 2020 at 10:33 am

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