Flagship rail scheme gets the green light

11th Feb 2020

High Speed 2 has formally been given the go ahead, with Government confirming that main construction work is set to begin in April on phase one from London to the West Midlands.

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But the Prime Minister said that changes will be made to the way the scheme is managed, in line with the recommendations of engineer Douglas Oakervee, which were made public yesterday.

Boris Johnson promised that Government will be “interrogating the current costs to identify savings that can be made” in phase one.

The Prime Minister told Parliament yesterday: “We are going to get this done and to ensure that we do so without further blow outs on either cost or schedule, we are taking decisive action to restore discipline to the programme.

“I will be appointing a Minister whose full time job will be to oversee the project and a Ministerial oversight group will be tasked with taking strategic decisions.”
Boris Johnson added: “We will be interrogating the current costs to identify savings that can be made in phase one without the cost and delays that would be associated with a detailed redesign.”

Yesterday, the Government published a long awaited review of High Speed 2 led by engineer Douglas Oakervee, which concluded that “on balance, Ministers should proceed with the project, subject to a number of qualifications”.

The review concluded that the rationale for High Speed 2 “still holds” but that there is also a need for greater capacity and reliability on the conventional rail network in the Midlands and the north.

There are no “shovel ready” alternative investments to the project, the review added, and that cancellation of the scheme would lead to “serious consequences for the supply chain, the fragile UK construction industry and confidence in UK infrastructure planning”.

Douglas Oakervee’s review called for Government to establish a further study by this summer to develop an “integrated railway plan” embracing phase 2b and further rail investment in the Midlands and the north.

With regard to stations, the Oakervee review concluded that Euston should remain the London terminus, with Old Oak Common acting as a temporary terminus until Euston is complete. But the study makes the point that the existing design for Euston “is not satisfactory” and the plan needs to be simplified.

The review also suggested a look at introducing more efficient and economic design standards for phases one and 2a and an examination as to what “gold plating” of standards can be removed from phase 2b to reduce costs.

CIHT chief executive Sue Percy welcomed the Government’s commitment to proceed with High Speed 2. She said: “We have consistently called for the uncertainty around the scope and scale of the project to be addressed and the announcement is a move in the right direction.

“The project has clear benefits for capacity, connectivity and the economy if delivered in an appropriate manner. It is clear however that HS2 is proving to be a divisive issue and more now needs to be done to demonstrate the benefits that the project could deliver.”

Association for Consultancy & Engineering chief executive Hannah Vickers said she was delighted to see “common sense finally prevail” with the decision to go ahead with High Speed 2.

“This is great news for people across the Midlands and the north who will benefit from an economic boost by being better connected,” she remarked. “Thanks to capacity being opened up across the network, projects like Midlands Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail can become a reality.”

Consultant Atkins’ transportation managing director Lizi Stewart welcomed the go ahead, describing High Speed 2 as “one of the most transformational projects ever undertaken” in the UK. But she added: “While we welcome commitment to the project as a whole, we urge the Government to move ahead with purpose to ensure that Phase 2 isn’t compromised. High Speed 2’s true benefits hinge on extra capacity for cities and regions beyond Birmingham.”

Nottinghamshire County Council leader Kay Cutts said that the announcement is “really positive news and a huge opportunity for the rest of the country from the Midlands upwards.” She described High Speed 2 as being “instrumental in our plans for substantial regional growth”.

(Image: Grimshaw Architects)

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