Rail life story

Jason Ford

News Editor

The government is this week expected to announce its preferred route for the 250mph HS2 rail link between London and the West Midlands, which it hopes to have up and running by 2025.

Existing plans will see a link built between London and Birmingham with travel times between the cities cut to 49 minutes.

A further Y-shaped line is proposed north of Birmingham, whose branches would serve Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh; and the other calling at Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.

Initiated by the former Labour government, the proposed route to Birmingham cuts through 16 Conservative constituencies which are home to cabinet and junior ministers and, according to the Daily Telegraph, the premises of some of the party’s biggest financial backers.

With reports that certain funds to the Conservatives could be cut off, it comes as no surprise to hear that Labour have stepped into the fray, claiming that HS2 is not an ‘untouchable’ project.

In The Guardian on Friday the shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said HS2 would be included in a policy review ordered by Ed Miliband.

With a possible U-turn on the horizon, Briefing isn’t sure whether this is a politically motivated decision or one born out of a genuine desire to keep public spending in check by putting large infrastructure projects on ice.

Disdain followed the decision earlier in the year that saw an £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters cancelled following the election of the coalition government.

The loan, approved by the former Labour government, was described by the coalition as unaffordable and accused Labour of ’writing a cheque it knew would bounce’.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg is MP for Sheffield Hallam and parliamentary colleague Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge has published documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act revealing his support for the loan prior to the general election.

A report is due tomorrow from a department of business, innovation and skills committee about the affair.  

Finally, Saturday sees the launch of the UK’s first hydrogen buses in London.

As reported by The Engineer on Friday December 10, the first of a planned fleet of eight buses will use fuel-cell technology that produces energy from hydrogen and oxygen, emitting only water vapour.

The scheme will see eight buses phased into operation by the middle of next year, adding to the 100 hybrid buses already run by Transport for London (TfL).