Higgins urges high-speed hurry

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In Budget week, manufacturers are reporting high confidence, while the Chair of HS2 wants a Euston revamp and faster work on hte northern section of the line.

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.’