Latest Public Sector News

28.10.13

‘14 years of weekend rail closures’ unless HS2 goes ahead

Building an alternative to HS2 would require 14 years of weekend route closures on the busiest north-south lines, a new report from Network Rail and Atkins has warned.

Improving the existing main lines instead – East Coast, Midland, and West Coast – would cost £20bn but could increase journey times, with London to Leeds predicted to double. Residential and commercial demolitions would also be required, the report highlights.

This approach has been strongly supported by critics of HS2, who argue that a project costing £42bn and with such a long build-time would not provide value for money.

The study will inform the Government’s updated business case, to be published tomorrow. MPs will vote on a ‘Paving Bill’ on Thursday that would give the Coalition the authority to continue preparatory work on HS2.

A government source said: “We need to do something because our railways are nearly full, but the alternative to HS2 is a patch and mend job that would cause 14 years of gridlock, hellish journeys and rail replacement buses.

“The three main routes to the north would be crippled and the economy would be damaged.”

Asked about the report on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Network Rail’s managing director of Network Operations Robin Gisby said the disruption involved in upgrading existing lines would be immense, giving the example of the previous West Coast Main Line upgrade versus the successful HS1 build.

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, told the Andrew Marr show yesterday: “I’m very confident that, as we work through the project and deliver it, we will not just deliver it within that budget but, like the Olympic Stadium project, under budget too.”

Labour has reiterated that it “cannot and will not” give the Government a blank cheque for HS2 in an article by the new shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh over the weekend, and accused the coalition of “desperately mismanaging” the project. Cross-party support has been seen by many as vital for the success of HS2.

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