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Cost of the eastern leg of HS2 ‘could exceed £40 billion’

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Ministers are ‘shortly expected to announce a delay to the eastern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Leeds’, with priority given instead to Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester, the Financial Times revealed on 3 October. Transport secretary Grant Shapps will set out a new integrated rail plan ‘in the coming weeks’, and there is to be a ‘competition among railway towns to become the headquarters of Great British Railways, a new state-owned body that will oversee rail travel from 2023’.

[George Parker:] ‘The western leg [of HS2] to Manchester will be built, but the eastern section to Leeds is in jeopardy given concerns that the cost could exceed £40bn.

[…] Asked whether the eastern leg of HS2 would be axed, Shapps said: “We want to make sure we get trains to Leeds in a way that actually benefits people on the network and not blindly follow some plan invented 15 to 20 years ago which no longer benefits people.”’

‘UK transport secretary Grant Shapps signals major rethink of HS2 rail line’, George Parker in Manchester, Financial Times, 3 October 2021

The plan for the eastern leg of HS2 was ‘invented’ at the same time as the rest of the project. So the government’s support for phase one and the western leg could equally validly be described as ‘blindly following some plan invented 15 to 20 years ago which no longer benefits people‘. (Of course, the vast majority of the British public would would rarely or never use HS2, and the scheme is crowding out investment in the conventional rail network.)

The site of the proposed HS2 platforms at Manchester Piccadilly
Picture: The site of the proposed HS2 platforms at Manchester Piccadilly

HS2 makes the railway network more London-centric, whereas developing good east – west lines would make it less London-centric. Unfortunately, the Northern Powerhouse Rail ‘new line between Manchester and Leeds via Bradford’ is a monkeydust scheme, while the centrepiece of the Midlands Connect ‘Midlands Rail hub’ – the Camp Hill chords (with the eastern and western chords connected to the bay platforms at Birmingham Moor Street) – is probably unbuildable.

Written by beleben

October 4, 2021 at 4:21 pm

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