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Boris Johnson set to give HS2 the green light

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to approve the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link despite concerns over the rising costs of the project

According to the BBC, the government is set to proceed with the line, which will connect London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with the decision expected to coincide with new investment in transport infrastructure to improve connectivity in the North.

Johnson had called for a review of HS2 shortly after being appointed as PM last summer after voicing concerns over the project. 

The budget for HS2 has soared from an estimated £56 billion in 2015 to £88 billion. However the review of the project is believed to have put the final figure for the new line at up to £106 billion.

The review, led by former HS2 chair Doug Oakervee, is understood to have concluded that the new line should go ahead despite the cost rises.

The HS2 project may still see a number of alterations, including an overhaul of its management, how the project is procured, reduced line speed, and changes to the phasing of construction. 

The first phase of the new line, which will connect London to Birmingham, is due to be completed between 2028 and 2013, with the second phase connecting Manchester and Leeds opening between 2035 and 2040.

In January Grimshaw and WSP unveiled reworked designs for the new HS2 station at Curzon Street in Birmingham. 

Previous designs for the station had been criticised by West Midlands mayor Andy Street, who said the plans for both had all ‘all the quirkiness and charm of Stansted Airport’s baggage drop-off area’ and should be looked at again.

Last month a report by National Audit Office (NAO) concluded that the management team behind HS2 had misjudged ‘the level of uncertainty and risk’ on the first phase of the project as well as the cost of design changes once the project had been given Parliamentary approval. 

Commenting on the expected decision, Jon Matthews, founder and director of Jon Matthews Architects, Manchester, said: ’It really pisses me off when people from London moan about HS2 – I can’t remember any debate about Crossrail prior to construction.

’For too long now infrastructure investment has been culled by moaning Nimbys who seem to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. HS2 is essential to future proof capacity on our rail network. It will create jobs, tax revenues and skills. It will assist in decentralising economic activity out of London.

He added: ’Let’s hope design quality is on the agenda and that some smaller architects [are allowed to] shine as well as the dreary corporates. [And], for crying out loud, let’s get on with it!’

Hs2 site looking across to selfrdiges credit swampy167 shutterstock

Hs2 site looking across to selfrdiges credit swampy167 shutterstock

Source: swampy167 Shutterstock

HS2 site in Birmingham

Chris Boyce, director and founder of Assorted Skills + Talents* said: ’The decision to fund the complete route, including Manchester, means the pressure on the existing north-south lines should decrease and greater competition and new operators can improve accessibility and prices for all travellers.

‘However, the UK government must invest now in connections east to west across the Pennines and in the commuter routes so badly let down by Northern Rail. The economic development potential, and liveability, of all northern towns and cities is being stifled by dependence on the car for commuters.’

Boyce added: ’[But] the procurement route on HS2 that has allowed the costs to spiral must be looked at. It is Design and Build on a monstrous scale, which as we have seen in all other sectors, from health to energy and defence, leads to increased cost and a limited supply chain choice, not value for money.’

Philip Doyle, director of Manchester-based 5plus Architects, said he thought the government was always likely to approve the project. He said: ‘It’s the glory/flagship project and Johnson would have had a few questions to answer if he had immediately reneged on his “support” of the North.

‘Is HS2 the right thing? Absolutely – on account of so much work done already, if nothing else. It’s the tip of the iceberg, though, and so much more needed. Taking Manchester and the North West as an example, the city and region are broken in terms of infrastructure – this isn’t just about Northern Rail.’

Comments

Nick Moss, director Sixtwo Architects, Manchester

HS2 is a massive marketing fail. The issue was never about shaving time off the journey from London to the North, but a simple requirement for increased line capacity. Much or our infrastructure is Victorian and needs to be upgraded.

We should be improving the network full stop. But this improvement has to be everywhere, not just serving the South East. The fact it is still quicker to drive to Leeds from Manchester, rather than travel by train, is incredible.

Gayle Appleyard, director Gagarin Studio, Halifax

We do want ambitious infrastructure projects that can have a meaningful impact for the regions, of course we do, but to undertake HS2 without first investing in our archaic, regional infrastructure is not only wrong but shortsighted. The Prime Minster has pledged to ‘review’ Northern Powerhouse Rail but let’s remember he had made lots of promises in London that he couldn’t deliver, too it’s therefore a matter of trust.

A fit for purpose regional rail network is not a sexy headline-grabbing project

What is required first and foremost is a regional rail network that is fit for purpose, connecting our towns and cities in the North with a clean, efficient, reliable transport system that encourages people to move from their cars to get to work - maybe not the sexy headline-grabbing project he’s after.

Hs2 phase 2b map from proposals cropped

Hs2 phase 2b map from proposals cropped

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