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Higgins urges high-speed hurry

With the Budget nearly upon us and a major infrastructure project waiting to get on track, politicians are being urged to continue their support of manufacturers and get on with HS2.

The chancellor in particular is being urged by EEF to put more wind into the sails of the recovery by orientating this Wednesday’s budget toward the needs of Britain’s manufacturers, who are reporting record levels of confidence.

The EEF/BDO first quarter manufacturing outlook survey indicates high recruitment and investment intentions based on an upturn in fortunes that is translating across regions and sectors, and is reflected in healthy balances for UK and overseas sales.

According to EEF output and order balances moved higher compared to the final quarter of last year to +22 per cent and +20 per cent respectively, and the strongest positive balances were reported by companies in the electronics, motor vehicles and electrical equipment sectors.

In its report EEF says that translating firms’ intentions to invest and hire more staff into action will be the ‘ultimate test for long term economic recovery’ and that the chancellor is best placed to secure the conditions that continue this momentum.

Politicians of all stripes are today urged to get behind HS2 in order to reap cost savings and stated benefits of the new line from London to Birmingham and beyond to Leeds and Manchester.

In his report, HS2 Chair Sir David Higgins proposes accelerating work on the northern spur, bringing the project to completion six years ahead of the 2033 schedule and adding a new transport hub at Crewe.

This would align the project with phase one between London and Birmingham, which under current plans is pencilled in for 2026.

Around £700m of savings have been identified in scrapping the link to HS1, and further proposals include redevelopment of Euston Station.

He told the BBC: ‘Let’s do Euston properly. Let’s think about it now. It’s not going to be easy, I have to say, to redevelop that station. It is a mess.’

In his report – HS2 Plus – Sir David adds that redeveloping Euston would present ‘a solution that could truly stand the test of time and allow the station to join St Pancras and King’s Cross as an iconic driver of local regeneration whose beneficial effects will be felt for generations.’

In terms of costs, he wrote in his report: I am satisfied that the £21.4bn (including contingency) allocated to the Phase One infrastructure project, plus the £3bn (including contingency) allocated for Phase One trains, is enough to deliver Phase One. The uncertainty over the legislative timetable plus the inherent risks associated with any project at this early stage is why I have resisted the temptation to reduce the large contingency contained in the budget.

Reacting to today’s report Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2 said: David Higgins has spent three months looking for cost savings for HS2 and he hasn’t found a single bean.

’All he has done is take off the link to Europe but the costs have stayed same. Claims that HS2 needs to be built fast to avoid inflation are complete rubbish because they are ignoring inflation to use 2011 prices. 

‘The official estimate of £50.1bn was always too low, and represents the cost if the whole project was built in one year and that year was 2011. If you use Treasury guidelines for GDP growth and inflation, you’d have to increase it by 27.7 per cent, putting the cost of HS2 at £64bn.’

One rail project underway involves the electrification of the Great Western Mainline and an event taking place this evening will look at the most advanced plant available to deliver the project.

Windhoff are manufacturing and testing the £40m High-Output Plant System (HOPS) ‘factory train’ ordered by Network Rail, which will be used to install 25kV 50Hz electrification on the 380km route. It consists of 23 vehicles with a combined length of 500m, which will normally work as five separate trains performing work in sequence.  

Windhoff and Network Rail will jointly present the development of the new High Output Plant System in which a group of specially developed rail vehicles support the electrification programme now being rolled out across the network.

This week’s Scottish Renewables exhibition in Edinburgh (18/19th) includes a session on how renewables businesses can tap into ‘very substantial sums’ from their R&D expenditure.

The event is run by Jumpstart, a company made up of scientists and technologists to help businesses claim for R&D tax relief.

They say: ‘While many renewables companies have already been successful in their tax relief claims, the sector as a whole is still failing to secure a potential financial windfall from the millions that go unclaimed each year.’



Readers' comments (6)

  • Pointless starting anything on the Northern sector until we are sure the Southern sector is going to be completed! Losing the link to HS1 also misses the point of trying to produce a coherent transport policy. Whats the point of using it to try to get from Manchester to Lille or Brussels if you have to get off and cross London...? you might as well just hop on a short hop flight and be there in a quarter of the time! The whole idea seems increasingly pointless when we could be looking a major infrastructure builds on tidal lagoons and barrages to help ensure energy security.

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  • I'm with you 100% on that Mike.

    And decide in haste - repent at your leisure!

    "It's crucially important to transform the economic shape of the UK and to try to rebalance the country away from all the emphasis on the South East," he said.

    What is one principal objective of HS2? To serve commuters who work in London, but can't afford to live in London, it would seem?

    So, far from rebalancing the "economic shape" of the UK, it would tend to place "all the emphasis on the South East"!

    I think that's "the opposite of what is required."

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  • I suspect that the business case could be improved by bringing forward Phase 2 - in effect, completing it all together.

    Phase 1 by itself is of limited benefit. In addition, it would require significant amount of dual use rolling stock to go beyond the HS2 loading guage. This rolling stock will be unique to HS2, and therefore expensive.

    Mike: The HS1 spur may be useful, but unless the UK joins Schengen, there will still be a need for passport checks which will limit some services.

    And getting from Euston to St Pancras is not "getting across London". Especially if a people-mover is built between the two.

    @David: If you can't afford to live nearer, you probably can't afford to commute from Birmingham on a daily basis. Some will commute maybe twice per week. They will then spend their money made in London back at home.

    Towns near London like Tunbridge Wells that have a mix of commuters and local employment do very well.

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  • I believe that the HS2 is vital to the revitalisation of the large part of the country that lies north of Birmingham – the part of the country where I was born, raised, spent much of my early career and still have family. Now that I live and work in the South I find that I can look fairly objectively at the North-South divide and it seems to me that some of the issues are fairly obvious. One of the key issues is rail infrastructure linking the North to the rest of the country and beyond – which could have a truly transformative effect on not just Manchester and Leeds but the whole of the Lancashire-Yorkshire hinterland.
    The issue is not how quickly can one get to London for a meeting, or to France or Belgium, but rather is there sufficient capacity in the rail infrastructure to serve a vibrant North. Today the answer is a very clear ‘no’.
    Unfortunately, large numbers of people living to the south of Birmingham either don’t care what happens in the North, or worse actively oppose the spending of money on key projects which could transform the prospects of a massive part of the UK.

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  • HS2 is a project to disproportionately benefit London & the South East. It will be paid for by the whole of the UK and, in the main, import technology rather than develop the UK technology base.
    Don't go ahead with the current SE-centric plan.

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  • It is not only the construction of HS2 that is a problem, but also the operating mode. Please look at the following proposal that offers a critique of HS2 and possible alternatives. It is called the MaRT proposal and can be found at . Fair comment and criticism are welcome

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