Government report claims HS2 ‘essential’ to UK transport needs

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HS2 – Strategic Case - .PDF file.

A report published today states the UK will not meet its transport needs without HS2, the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham with spurs further north.

The strategic case for HS2 provides details that the government believes justify the new railway line in relation to providing extra capacity. Central to the case is new data that shows what the government believes is the true extent of the crisis facing the UK rail network, and the impact alternatives to building HS2 would have.

Research by Network Rail and Atkins shows that the alternative to HS2 would result in up to 14 years of weekend closures on existing lines and deliver only a fraction of the additional capacity.

In a statement, secretary of state for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘We need a radical solution and HS2 is it. A patch and mend job will not do – the only option is a new north south railway. HS2 brings massive benefits to the north, is great for commuters and the alternatives just don’t stack up. Now is the time to be bold and deliver a world class railway which Britain deserves and can truly be proud of. Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to take this opportunity.’

According to a statement from the Department for Transport, the East Coast, West Coast and Midland Main Lines can only carry a finite number of trains each day before they become clogged. HS2 will add 18 trains an hour between Manchester, Leeds and London and will allow significantly more freight onto the wider rail network. The government expects considerable regeneration around stations delivering jobs and growth similar to the experience of HS1, the Channel Tunnel rail link.

The government has updated the benefit to cost ratio (BCR) of the railway, valuing it at £2.30 (revised down from the previous estimate of £2.50), or providing £2 worth of benefits for every £1 spent. This is similar to Crossrail and higher than the benefit cost ratio for some other major projects when approved, such as Thames Link and the Jubilee Line extension. The BCR will increase to 4.5 if rail demand continues to rise until 2049.

Other benefits of the railway included in the document are estimates from Network Rail that over 100 cities and towns could benefit from new or improved services as a result of capacity released on the existing rail network.

These include: additional commuter services into London from places such as Watford, Milton Keynes, Rugby and Northampton; and new commuter services into Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester; and

Commenting on today’s report, Philippa Oldham, head of transport at IMechE said: ‘Commitment to HS2…provides the UK’s engineering industry with the much-needed confidence to invest in future skills and will help the UK become a world leader in the development and delivery of railway technology. Over 95 per cent of Crossrail’s budget to date has been won by UK-based businesses – and this is something which could and should be replicated in HS2.

‘The UK national rail network continues to see growth year on year, with 1.5 billion passenger journeys in 2011/12, which represents an increase of over 50 per cent in a decade. With this increase expected to continue to match population growth, we need strong government leadership to ensure HS2 happens.’