COMMONS

Transport Committee publish High speed rail: on track? report

13 December 2013

MPs back the strategic case for HS2, but call for a full assessment of the case for building from the north towards the south.

HS2 is needed to provide a long-term increase in the capacity of the railway, say MPs on the cross party Transport Committee, but HS2 should look seriously at the case to build concurrently from the north towards the south as well as northwards from London. 

Launching a follow up to a report on HS2 published two years ago, Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Committee, said today: 

“We support the strategic case for HS2 published recently by the Government. Having looked at this, and at new research by KPMG that examined the project’s possible regional economic benefits, we remain confident that construction of a new high speed line is the only way to deliver the step change in capacity on the West Coast Main Line needed to accommodate long-term demand for both passengers and rail freight.  This confirms the conclusions reached in 2011 when this committee looked closely at the original business case to build HS2 and backed those proposals.

“HS2 can also play a major role in promoting economic growth in the UK’s major city regions.  We welcome the assurance given to us recently by Sir David Higgins, incoming Chair of HS2, that he will re-examine the case for building the line from north-to-south, as well as from London northwards.”  

The Committee also calls for:

  • DfT to emphasise more clearly to the public that the estimated cost of HS2 is £28 billion, not £50 billion, and that cost increases to date are largely due to the decision to undertake more tunnelling and other works to mitigate the impact of the project on people living near the route.
  • DfT to review the appropriateness of applying its standard
    appraisal methodology to large projects with national significance. 
  • HS2 Ltd to commission further work on the regional economic benefits of high speed rail. 
  • Local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships to draw up economic development strategies which make the most out of HS2 and for central Government to provide support for this.
  • Government to publish a strategy for ensuring that UK firms and workers throughout the country gain maximum benefit from HS2
  • DfT to speed up work to identify new service patterns on capacity set to be freed up by the construction of HS2 and to give clear priority to additional rail projects which will enable trains from a wider range of areas than currently envisaged to gain access to the high speed network.

Commenting on this point Louise Ellman said:

“If we are to spread the benefits from HS2 as widely as possible, it is vital we improve links between the conventional and high speed networks and bring forward projects to speed up journey times on the conventional network.”

Lastly, while acknowledging that there is no evidence that the Government is reducing other forms of transport spending in order to fund HS2, the Committee warns that its support for HS2 is not unqualified: 

“We would not accept a situation in which other vital transport projects were delayed because of HS2’s funding requirements and we remain concerned about how refinements - for example to incorporate a stop for Heathrow into the plans for phase 1 - may have an impact on the budget,” added Louise Ellman.

Further information

Image: PA

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