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‘HS2 is the only option’, says transport minister

The UK cannot meet its future transport needs without the high-speed rail line, according to new evidence published by the government today (29 October)

Research carried out by Atkins and Network Rail suggests that alternatives to HS2 would result in up to 14 years of weekend closures on existing lines.

A simple programme of track upgrades, it is claimed, would take as long as the £42.6 billion high speed line to construct, would cost more than £20 billion and would require lines to be closed for 2,500 weekends for construction work to be carried out.

Secretary of state for transport Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘HS2 emerges as the only option that provides not only the capacity and the connectivity this country needs, but is also deliverable, minimises disruption to existing rail services and allows us to leap ahead of demand and reshape the economic geography of the country.’

He added: ‘Good quality transport is at the heart of our economic success and the decisions we take now about transport investment will determine our country’s economic future.

Decisions we take now about transport investment will determine our country’s economic future

‘The case for the new line rests on the step change in capacity and connectivity it will provide.

‘The new north-south railway is a long term solution to a long term problem. Without HS2, the West Coast, East Coast and Midland Main Lines are likely to be overwhelmed. With it, we will transform intercity travel. There will also be benefits for regional and commuter services. It will increase the amount of freight that can be carried by rail.’

There has been significant debate about the economic benefit of HS2, but the government has predicted that the overall benefits to the economy from the line could total more than £53 billion.

A recent report by KPMG suggested the line would add £15 billion to the economy each year.

UK rail sector director at WSP, Dave Darnell commented: ‘The commotion we saw yesterday is a poignant reminder of just how fragile our congested rail network is and how heavily we rely on it. HS2 will give us more capacity not only for extra journeys but also flexibility to strengthen this vital asset without widespread disruption.

‘If the alternative, many years of delays and cancellations for much less benefit, is an option we’re prepared to take, we may have to get used to this level of chaos more often - especially as extreme weather is expected to become more frequent.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • I can think of very few occasions where the big idea is "the only option". This is not one of them. HMG already commissioned an in-depth study of the UK transport infrastructure in 2006 listing a great many (The Eddington Report, now "archived" - http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20071205111121/http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/187604/206711/executivesummary) This anticipated an HS2 style proposal. It says [1.138 on]:
    "We see situations where the solution develops first – perhaps driven by the
    prospect of an exciting new technology, aspirations of transforming the economic fortunes of
    a region, or even simply because a competitor city or country “has one”. The idea rapidly
    becomes a solution looking for a problem.
    Study suggests that the claimed transformational impacts of such projects are rarely
    observed, and any speculative assessment of ‘macro-economic’ benefits would involve
    considerable risk, particularly in view of the large sunk cost investment that would be
    required."
    Like watching an old showing of "Yes Minister", all the current arguments have already been rehearsed. It would be funny if it were not so serious.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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