HS2 speculation suggests need for Plan B

While I am sceptical of the rumours published in the fiercely anti-HS2 Spectator about plans to abandon the scheme, it is very important that the rail industry is prepared for such an eventuality. My scepticism is based on the fact that such a U-turn would require a complete recasting of the Coalition’s transport policy and would be on a far greater scale than other U-turns because plans for HS2 have been well in train for several years. Certainly the Libdems will fight tooth and nail to ensure that the scheme is retained – indeed given that the Tories have repeatedly ridden roughshod over them on so many other policies, it would be a real potential deal breaker

However, any hint towards abandonment must be met by well-prepared plans by the industry to ensure that there are cogent plans to deal with the lack of capacity in the rail industry.  The real danger is that the government would suddenly decide that if the money is not to be spent on railways, it should be spent on airports and – heaven forfend – motorways. The expansion of Heathrow or other London airports has, however, nothing to do with the kind of transport demand which HS2 is supposed to meet. While motorway widening is possible, the expansion of the roads programme would be unpopular and expensive, and will not improve the connectivity between major cities which the railways can offer. The rail industry, therefore, must be prepared with a Plan B to show other ways in which the capacity problems can be resolved – and these mean more than just focussing on the West Coast main line.



  • How about increasing the speed, electrifying, and adding extra tracks on many other lines?

  • Pagray

    How about upgrading the chiltern line further allowing faster connection between London and Birmingham.Electrifying MML,reinstating the Great central railway primarily for freight,taking it off the WCML.Add strategic curves opening up new pathways,electrification to swansea,invest in conurbation integrated trams/rail systems eg bristol area,leeds area.ie come up with a coherant plan that enhaces the rail system,increases capacity and gives value for money.
    I am sure Christian could suggest more value for money improvements !

  • Alex Mckenna

    SO those lines would be nightmarish and often closed for years and years and years, till after we’re past caring or dead.

  • Cynic

    HS2 would not be a deal breaker for the Lib Dems.  Nothing will – they have everything to lose and absolutely nothing to gain by breaking up the coalition.  

  • Rich

    “However, any hint towards abandonment must be met by well-prepared plans by the industry to ensure that there are cogent plans to deal with the lack of capacity in the rail industry.”

    The forecasted increase in figures for rail travel demand, (even given the population increase that’s predicted), are “heroic” according to you, so I’m struggling to understand your new-found concern here. Presumably you think rail travel will increase but only by a certain amount. Enough for the rail industry to worry about, but not enough to justify HS2.  Care to share what your prediction is? And I’m talking about the next 100 years, not the next 10.

    The rail industry already has a plan to cope with the lack of capacity in the rail industry. It’s called “HS2”. It represents but the first phase in a large-scale investment in the railways that the country has been crying out for, and clearly needs going into the next 100 plus years. It calls for a bit of vision and looking beyond meaningless “business cases”, but it’s being met by protests from people who represent Beeching MK 2 and want to see the UK commit itself to a future of road-building and token, useless rail upgrades. We’ve already had a clear demonstration of the pointlessness of upgrading the existing rail network – billions spent on upgrading the WCML with it’s endless outages and loss to businesses, all to attain a line-speed whch has been in operation on other parts of the network since the 1970s. 

    It is absolutely ridiculous for you to go demanding that the rail industry put contingency plans place in case should the unthinkable happen and the government listen to your short-sighted moaning.

    “The real danger is that the government would suddenly decide that if the money is not to be spent on railways, it should be spent on airports and – heaven forfend – motorways.”

    You’ve been told plenty of times that this is what cleary will happen if HS2 were to get canned. I’m amazed you’re pretending to be concerned. You will be given what you’ve been campaigning for.

    “..the expansion of the roads programme would be unpopular and expensive,”

    The government shouldn’t care if it’s unpopular. It should just point the people who find it unpopular in the direction of you and your “StopHS2” friends for an explanation of why it’s happening. Again, this is what you have been campaigning for. You have been told so numerous times.

  • Just invert the scheme – improve the Manchester to Birmingham route first and you could knock 45 minutes off the journey times – that would give a tremendous boost to the Northern economy – if that proved to be successful then extend the route South. 

    The great fear is that this is just for the benefit of London and the South East and that the Northern lines will never get built.

  • StephenC

    Unfortunately, much of the rail industry has put its head in the sand about the liklihood of HS2 actually getting built. Its a massive project, with a big cost, that delivers no benefits for years, and only delivers benefits at all for a narrow subsection of the population. The last point is the killer. When MPs start to grasp that Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Crewe and so on will become second-class places, support from local MPs will tend to wane. The HS2 chief engineer made it clear that the project is focussed on big cities, as he considered that they are the only places where economic activity is significant.

    The result is precious sign of a plan B. My thoughts are that new tracks are definitely needed, in combination with widening/upgrading existing lines. HC-Midland is my approach – http://ukrail.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/hc-midland.html – one that provides smaller bite-sized chunks of investment that have faster benefits, and crucially local/regional benefits, allowing residents to understand the trade-off between the new line and the extra serives they get (unlike HS2 where residents along the route get zero benefits, and thus hate it). The bite-sized approach also handle questions of the accuracy of the projected passenger numbers.

  • RapidAssistant

    What has always struck me about all of this from Day One is the naivety of both the DfT and the politicians (not to mention certain quarters of the railway industry press) who, before we even get to analysing the justification for HS2 seem to think that it is a done deal already and it is going to happen in 2026.   It isn’t.  Even if it does get built, expect the usual debacle of delays, cost overruns, bailouts and backstabbing which will ensure the opening date will be more like 2036, or maybe 2046 (lets face it the ECML electrification was proposed in the 1950s, didn’t actually happen until the late 1980s…so I’ve every reason to be sceptical).
    Notwithstanding any of the apparently false rumours that are being planted by The Spectator, I think a few governments are going to come and go before a single shovel is lifted.  And what if, for example the current quasi-privatisation finally implodes on itself within the next decade with all the consequences that would bring and we have to return to a full-blown nationalised British Rail model.  Suddenly saving the bacon of the existing railway would become a lot more important.

  • Christian Wolmar


    The point you miss is that there is a need for new capacity on a wide variety of lines, and HS2 focusses all the attention on one route. It does nothing for most fo the country. It was, as other commenters have noted, dreamt up as a solution to rail capacity without a proper investigation of where increases should be targeted.

  • I’m also in the “sort out the existing problems” camp too.  Why not pump money into the Chiltern Chugger and let it wend it’s way through to Brum and as close to Manchester as it can get?  I expect you’ll solve far more congestion problems through re-opening old town stations along the line (infilling and building obstructions aside) than simply bypassing would do? In an ideal World – Electrification of Midland Mainline might help too – though any expansion at the London end has been effectively stuffed by making it an afterthought in the revamp of St Pancras.  Even better would be to throw the cyclists off the Buxton to Matlock route and re-instate that – Plus a re-opening of the Woodhead tunnel route.

    ………Too expensive? Why not re-launch Dodgy Dave’s Big Society for the umpteenth time and re-introduce the Convict Chain Gang to build it all! 🙂

    Oh – It’s not just North – South routes we need of course – If you invested in the lines that link up the larger towns and cities, you’d reduce overcrowding on the express routes and give people alternatives.  For instance – I live in Lancaster – I HATE Virgin’s disgusting Pendolinos. If I could get to Sheffield faster – or even across to York, I’d regularly go to London via those routes than suffocating in discomfort in a claustrophobic tin can for three hours.  I like my trains with windows I can see out of please! 

  • Luke Briner

    I love the idea that the best way to reduce the “north-south divide” is supposed to be increasing the capacity between London and Birmingham. I agree with others here, why not improve Newcastle/Leeds/Sheffield/Manchester etc and if it really does so well, go southwards.

  • Mopdenson

    for far too long the public have been patronised by the governments use of media hype.  it is easy to produce headlines for a project that sounds exciting and modern and promises increased wealth for the whole economy. the public are now wise to these devises and are able to question ambitious claims such as “HS2 will rebalance the economy”.  the voter wants jobs and security for himself and his family.  with most people at present having to pull their belts in with regards finances, the governments peacock gesture of splashing serious amounts of public money on trendy infrastructure is a difficult pill for many ordinary folk to swallow.  when you look at the facts HS2 does not deliver VFM.  why should people from all over GB foot the bill for HS2? according to HS2 ltd, HS2 passengers will be earning on average £70,000 and will save approx 15 mins on their journey between Birmingham/London.  HS2 ltd also say “it is difficult to predict where benefits will accrue”.  This statement further highlights the publics concerns on whether HS2 is a National Interest project or just more political spin.  With premium fares predicted, no intermediate stops, no direct link to our current major airport Heathrow and not to mention the huge environmental costs, it looks increasingly doubtful as to whether the £32bn investment needed for HS2 will deliver the illusory benefits promised.

  • Vtiman

    i am concerned that some of us who claim to be supporters of the railway industry as a whole are not more supportive of hs2. nobody in the road lobby would be against building another motorway and nobody in the air lobby would be against extra airports and runways. it is very rare for any uk government to be as committed to rail as currently. there is a very real danger that if even pro rail supporters criticise h2 that the govt will not spend the money else There if hs2 didnt go ahead. so back to more roads and runways. is that what critics really want i wonder.> You may think that there are better rail alternatives but if the govt goes cold on hs2. Be careful what you wish for.

    I would also hope that anybody in the know rail-wise would be able to quote correct facts re hs2 even if they dont agree with it. inaccuracies about rail in the general media are poor enough as it is. for example the journey time savings to Birmingham alone are in fact 35 minutes not “about 15 minutes” as all existing  trains (except for 1 train in 1 direction only that takes 72 minutes ) take on average 84 minutes as there isnt enough capacity to run more trains faster. So 35 minutes and an hour saved from manchester when built.,

    I also find it astounding that it can be suggested that hs2 will only serve a small amount of the country ! 9 out of he top ten uk cities by population will be served by direct trains running via hs2 the only exception being Bristol. Bradford and sheffield city centres wont be served directly but there will be stations in leeds and meadowhall.  Like any other national project some people wont benefit. The network needs enlarging dramatically if we are to make a serious dent in road traffic. To reduce this by 5% would need a doubling of the rail network.

    As fas as upgrading exisiitng lines is concerned this is merely a smokescreen and not really viable. Upgrading lines is another way of saying build more lines alongside the existing alignment. However in many cases the lines run through countryside or through the middle of settlements with buildings close by. So you would have ti blight and affect more people by doing so. As fas as WCML is concerned  we could probably have built hs2 to birmingham for the same amount. And i really dont know where anybody thinks all the passengers will go during the years of disruption. Road and air probably so you will drive away all those people who are using rail instead.


  • Andy

    This raises an interesting question, which would loose the Tories more votes, demolising hundreds of houses/flats along side the existing WCML in the London outskirts or cuttingaandy a large swaith through the scenic Chilterns.
    Another option is to tunnel below the existing lines, after all HS2 will be in a tunnel most of the way out of London.

  • Percy

    The current Government has backtracked and u turned on a lot of significant issues & pledges since it came to power so its not impossible and highly probable that they will do same on HS2.  When you consider the state of our national finances and the impending financial meltdown its more than likely already dead in the water given that the hearts of a lot of people in Government aren’t really in it once you scratch the surface. I’d say it dead, time to move on.

  • Rich


    I’m not missing any points at all. The point *you* continually miss is that HS2 isn’t just one line. It’s the start of a massive investment in the railways over the next century. Again, you are showing your short-sighted approach to this.  No government in the future is going to invest seriously in railways if it gets cannned. That will be it and the UK will be consigned to forever patching up what it’s got whilst other countries develop superior transport systems and gain a competitive advantage over us. You are not seeing the implications of not doing this and your focus on the “business case” of one line in isolation means you are not considering the role the railways should play over the next century, when cars have had their day. This is bigger than just HS2. We are at a potential key moment in the furture of rail development in this country and in my opinion you are trying to push it in totally the wrong direction through lack of foresight.

  • Vtiman

    hows about some costings for what you are suggesting. and reinstating any railway will be expensive and no matter what hew lines or upgrades you do you will still affect those who live near it. this whole anti hs2 movement was started by people who will say anything to stop hs2 and unfortunately some other people have followed along  with this as evidenced by the repitition of statements athat have been proven to be incorrect. The governments plan B might be forget rail and build roads and runways if hs2 didnt go ahead no oh we will upgrade lines to smaller cities instead.

    reinstating the great central would merely see stop hs2 being replaced with stop great central ! mmml electrification will hopefully get the go ahead and swansea cardiff is so obvious that hopefully the govt will realise this. 

  • Vtiman

    this was examined and a new line found to have more benefits and less disruption overall. euston for example would have to be redeveloped for the rp2 alternative that stop hs2 are so keen on. wcml upgrade was hugely expensive and disruptive it took years to get the passengers back. and extra tracks go through cities towns villages and farmland and countryside etc. you would find a stop rp2 group springing up overnight. it is funny that stop hs2 latched on to rp2 and sings its praises yet ignore the findings of the same report.     

  • Vtiman

    we need this as well.  9 out of the top ten uk cities served by hs2 is not a small subsection of the population by any means. and again with the nrew tracks ! hs2 is a new track and provides much needed capacity. a lot of freight also goes up the country. the uk is mostly narrow but long and existing north south roads and railways  are overcrowded.

    for years commentators like wolmar and others in the wider press have complained about governments being short sighted. time and time again we have seen this in the transport sector. many motorways have been widened at huge cost and disruption. we are indecisive about extra runways or airports. no one wants to live near an airport, motorway or now high speed line but as a nation we collectively all want to travel.Historically many transport projects have been underfunded and forecasts hopelessly low

    and of course rail users have complained about crowded trainsin the tube for some time now. and for people who say that we need other upgrades and that hs2 is sucking investment i say IEP Thameslink Crossrail Northern electrifcation great western electrification hopeffully mml also and east west rail as well as improvements in the tube. so bhardly a dearth of inmvestment.

  • Tramsol

    The lack of connectivity between the HS2 proposals – the detail that it seems to be 27 miles longer than an existing route to Birmingham, which also forks to deliver a line towards Manchester (in 2 places – one mothballed) shouts that the plan is flawed.

    With the GC/GW joint direct line being a) built for Berne Gauge, b) laid out with no curve less than 1 mile radius, no gradient steeper than 10 yards in a mile, and c) a wayleave (and possibly retained Parliementary powers for a 4-track railway for much of its length, it forms a ready platform to develop progressively.  The current ‘best’ time with just a 100mph line speed is 87 minutes, but transposing the 125mph running on WCML to a 125mph GC/GW route indicates a 60-65 minute journey with trains and technology available now.  Throw in the 140mph available when the signalling catches up with the trains and you’ve got a 50 minute trip in sight. 

    A 200-500 metre connection at West Hampstead, and the option to gauge enhance one or more of the 3 twin track tunnels (where 2 are sufficient) on the Midland Main Line, could deliver a link to both HS1 and the North London Line at Maiden Lane, and the option of running Chiltern Trains in to St Pancras to make use of capacity in the MML platforms.  This may well be necessary if the line from Ashendon Junction to Rugby is reinstated and 3 major E Midlands towns given back a rail service (and journey times to London of under an hour, unless more expensive and radical moves to win back the space originally built in to the GC for expansion at Marylebone.

    A parallel 4-track main line with 125/140mph running between London and Coventry with cross links at Rugby and Bletchley will go a long way to providing an immediate resolution to the weekly incidents that disrupt the WCML for part or all of a day on that crucial Euston-Rugby section, and this model can a) deliver in stages and b) add in new journey generators, early on to generate revenue and pay for the work. With this seamless diversion option the opportunity to have long blockades on the WCML and deliver both routes with full maximum European gauge clearances – and then both routes could operate bi-level carriages, available in plentiful numbers to lease from the European Mainland

  •  Would this be a “come up with Plan B” like they did with Crossrail?  “Oh we could save all the expense by simply putting the trains on the Circle Line”?  Much derided and quickly dropped but not without wasting a lot of time and effort.

    Fiddling whilst Rome burns.  We’re good at this in this country.  Every major infrastructure project we mess around for ages.  Crossrail’s decades late.  Thameslink 2000?  Don’t make me laugh.

    And so with HS2 we’ll p*** around like we always do in this country and then build it anyway.  When was the last time a project like this actually didn’t get built?  And when it comes it will be too late and we’ll be totally desperate for it.  Sometimes I despair of this country.

    It’s time to learn from the French and stop talking AND ACTUALLY BUILD SOMETHING.  We could have had the entire route to Scotland providing a hell of a lot more value, in the time we’ll waste arguing about just getting to Birmingham.  Then we’ll mess around for years arguing about extending it to Manchester, then even more years arguing about extending it to Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Oh and then someone will butt in and say it’s all out of date and we shouldn’t build anything else because of x-new technology.

    Oh yes and everyone who moans about cost… every year we waste on arguing is another year that it’s going to get more and more expensive when it finally does get built.  Because we all know it will.  Maybe this government will be stupid enough to ditch it (and I don’t believe they will) but the next won’t.

  • John F

     Use of the GC?GW Joint line for a second fast servcie to Birmingham. However there are three major flaws which I see. Firtly use of teh MML platforms at St Pancras via alink at est HAmstead my understanding is that these paltforms are already at capacity and are limiting expansion of servcies on the MML

    Which leaves Maryleboe which is pretty well at capacity already, but with crossrail it may be possibloe to use capacity released Paddington.

    Then therre is the Birmingham end. If either New Street or Snow Hill is to be the terminus extra capacity will be required from Leamington to either station. Leamington Coventry via Kenilwirth would probably have to be doubled but there is a lack of capacity between Coventry and Birmingham.

    Similarly via Solihull to either station would require extenxsive 4 tracking, admittedly a re-instatement but with the loss of carparking at suburban stations.

  • RichardH

    I know none of us have a crystal ball, but experience and common sense should show that whenever infrastructure is provided, traffic expands to use it. That alone is sufficient justification for building HS2. It’s also why I want to cry when I think of all the results of the Beeching cuts. All that infrastructure canned, all that effort and investment wasted, just to be replaced with roads which rapidly filled up anyway and became the next problem to solve. I’d like to string up from lampposts any remaining politicians and civil servants who were behind that bright idea, plus all the planners who have since allowed the trackbeds to be built over. Though before they swing they can explain to the new landowners how sorry they are that their properties are going to have to be demolished to make way for the railway line that ought to have remained there in the first place.
    Meantime I can’t understand why HS2, Crossrail and various other developments around London are so short-sighted and limited in scope and vision. Why is Crossrail 2 tracks? Why not 4, stacked vertically underground. Or even 6. Why is HS2 wasting time going to Euston or St Pancras. No one using it actually wants to go there. They want to go to Central London, or on to the Chunnel. So run through Central London, then where Crossrail emerges near Beckton, link across to HS1 at Dagenham.
    Why was the North London line from Stratford to Woolwich allowed to be converted into a toy trainset (Docklands) when again it could have linked with Crossrail and at least allowed overnight freight coming through the new Thames tunnel to head to all points north from Stratford. Presumably cross-Channel freight currently wends its way round through Clapham Junction and the West London line.
    What a shame they demolished Broad St. That would have been a nice overspill for Euston and St Pancras. 

  • NewWave

    I agree. I hope this nonsense is dead in the water. This is a badly thought out, badly planned idea. What idiot thinks that investing £32 Billion at a time when we are billions in debt is a good idea? Oh I know Labour did.  We need alternatives to ALL forms of transport. We also need to invest in new technology and make the UK IT literate. We currently rank 13th in the world for Broadband growth behind Mexico, Argentina, France, Germany and Spain. 
    We are falling behind and will be left in the dark ages running fast trains carrying nobody. Whilst our competitors will have (literally) moved on and be photocopying 3d objects and using holographic technology that obviates the need for travel. Science fiction? Science fact.
    The lack of imagination in our transport and technology infrastructure beggars beliefSure, rail forms a part of the strategy, as do roads, as does air. Get over your pet projects. think holsitically. 

  • Gpcfiler59

    Tunnelling is no answer, it creates as many issues as it solves, air vents are required and access points along the way. ‘elf and saftey mate ‘elf and safety

  • NewWave

    and sadly you fail to see that Rail is only PART of the
    solution, what happens when HS2 is full? what happens East West? HS2 and its
    “future benefits” does NOTHING for the South West or Wales or  East Anglia. It’s a one-dimensional solution
    to a multidimensional problem which pro HS2 seem to fail to grasp. This is
    already defunct technology, it’ll be simply decades before HS2 is built and by
    then we will have MOVED ON. Ye gods man! Open your eyes! 10 years ago if I’d
    said over a quarter of the population would be using mobile phones more
    powerful than their desktop computers at the time you’d have laughed at me. But
    now? According to new Ofcom research, 27 percent of UK adults now claim to own
    one, with 59 percent of sample having bought their phone in the past year (and
    the volume of data transferred over the UK’s mobile networks increased by 67
    percent during 2010)

    So what will we be doing IT wise in the next ten years? I
    can tell you one thing, we’ll not be sitting on slow trains/aircraft or cars.
    Transport? What you ‘aving a laurgh mate. Oh ye of small brains. My watch has
    more computing power than took the Apollo missions to the moon!


  • Guest

    Never a truer word spoken

  • New Wave

    How about thinking out of the box and considering other means of communication? Wasn’t it Arthur C Clarke who predicted Satellites and was derided? 

  • Rich

    “what happens when HS2 is full?”

    Oh I see. It’ll be so popular it’ll be full. Go back and read what I’ve written about HS2 being the start of a major rail investment program. 

    “it’ll be simply decades before HS2 is built and by then we will have MOVED ON.”

    So it’ll be full, but we’ll have MOVED ON? Errm, ok.

    “Ye gods man! Open your eyes! 10 years ago if I’d said over a quarter of the population would be using mobile phones blah blah blah” 

    Ah, it’s the old “tech not rail” argument. So HS2 will be full, but no-one will be using it because at same time everyone is at home staring at a monitor. How strange. I think you need to open your eyes to the fact that tech such as video conferencing has been around for more than a decade, and rail travel is still rising.

    “So what will we be doing IT wise in the next ten years?”

    I’ve asked people who push this argument this before and never got an answer – what exactly is this computer program that people are going to start running that can’t be run right now over exisiting network links which suddenly means people start working from home in such numbers that it has the effect of travel numbers that you reckon it will? 

    “My watch has more computing power than took the Apollo missions to the moon!”

    So does everyone else’s. An they’re still getting on trains in ever increasing numbers

    “Oh ye of small brains.”

    Oh ye of no clue.

  • christianwolmar

    You do make the best point about why we should support HS2. It’s the one that worries  me – once this opportunity is gone, transport investment will be skewed towards other modes. The trouble is that the case for HS2 is weak. If the government cannot make it stand up in its own terms, is it really a sensible way of spending £32bn. And you have to ask yourself – has the French TGV led to a widespread use of the railways or merely a  heavy use of the LGV lines and neglect of the rest of the network.
     We have a very different pattern of use here where investment needs to be spread around far more geographically. The answer, surely, is that the industry needs to be putting forward a range of ideas for expansion and capacity. The problem with HS2 is that it was plucked from the air as ‘the’ solution without any proper context.Remember Eddington was not at all supportive of the idea.

  • Totally with you.  I love people who say we’ll all be working from home.  I love them because I see little evidence of it happening in a major way. 

    I’ve been working in new media for 15 years – right at the cutting edge of all this stuff – and without fail everyone works in an office.  Maybe once a week someone will work from home, but that’s about it.  Everyone works in the office.  Why?  Because people work in teams and team interaction is far easier when everyone’s in one place.

    Yes we have video conferences and telephones but in my last job I spent a fair amount of time heading between London and Manchester to meet the team there.  In my current one people regularly travel between our offices in London and the West Coast of the USA.  Why?  Because sometimes being there in person is absolutely vital to build up relationships; to get things done.

    Don’t get me wrong – I do video conferences, I do email and I do telephones.  But face to face usually yields far better results.

  • Rich

    The case for HS2 is not weak if you look at the wider issues. Long-term modal shift to rail, less domestic flights, less carnage on the roads, inward investment etc. These cannot be quantified in some presentable “business case” which is why HS2 nay-sayers make such a song and dance about it. Pete waterman has tried to explain this several times. I’m talking about this as a long-term strategy for the railways for the next century.

    Investment in the rail network is still happening, HS2 or not. It’s not one or the other. You have to question though how much can be done on major routes. How many billions was the last WCML upgrade? And for what? As I said, a top speed which has been around since the seventies? How much aggro were the outages? 

    The French by the way are so dissapointed with thier TGV that they’re currently building new lines for it and planning more. It’s called planning for the long-term, a concept we seem to have trouble with in this country.

  • Twyfordbucks

     HS2 releases capacity on other lines. Broadband cannot carry 2000 tonne container trains for example. Such trains are going to be needed well into the future and in ever increasing numbers because of our geographic location and the huge ongoing investment in the Nations’ ports to take ULCVs. Each ULCV carries enough freight containers to stretch 68km. The UK is going to exploiting the use of such vessels because as an island just off the European Mainland we get paid to speed up the delivery to and despatch from Europe of such goods. Our ports, roads and railways save shippers time and money over sailing around the UK and then queuing for berths in Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp. It is an integral part of our export drive and worth billions. This is just one beneficiary of HS2. The route forms a spine along which more route modernisations take place. It really is the only cheap (yes cheap) option. Building alongside other transport routes is not only far more expensive, it wrecks more homes and businesses. 

  • Can someone explain why, if HS2 is so good for business, why we don’t just let business build it? Without taxpayers money and without government guarantees.
    If it really is that good a proposition,  then business will leap at the opportunity.
    If they don’t, well maybe it isn’t that good.
    As someone said:   “It’s always a bargain if someone else is paying”

  •  As long as you apply the same logic to roads and motorways…

  • christianwolmar

    The WCML was a special case of a cock up for various reasons; it does not mean all upgrades will be so disastrous. Contrast ECML electrification.
     The stuff about transfer from air is really a nonsense. Yes, ultimately a few people flying from Scotland may transfer to HS2 but not very many given that travel on HS” is likely to be at a premium if experience with HS1 is anything to go by. Most people flying from Manchester to London are interlining as there is already a time advantage on the train.
     The whole point about the business case is, of course, that it is nothing of the sort – it is precisely an attempt to quantify externalities and that is why it is amazing that the case is so poor.

  • Ddd

    We do apply the same to roads as rail, itu2019s called the BCR (Benefit-Cost Ratio); only trouble is rail schemes have lousy BCRs compared to road schemes.

  • I was referring to letting business pay and build them.nnBut hey, I bet the benefit cost ratio of a railway that was free to use would be far far better than one which you have to pay to travel on.u00a0 After all, if roads had a pay per use payment system, would their benefit-cost ratio be anywhere near as good?u00a0 Shall we mention the woefully underused and much avoided M6 Toll Road as a good place to start the comparison?u00a0

  • padav

    @Steph Higginbottom: “Can someone explain why, if HS2 is so good for business, why we don’t just let business build it? Without taxpayers money and without government guarantees.

    OK, the explanation is very simple – it’s down to timescales – UK private capital is notoriously short-termist in its outlook – the timescales involved in any rail infrastructure project and particularly one of this scale and nature ensure that private capital will not get involved directly with funding the construction process – in short, private investors want to see a quick return on their money and HS2 (or any other scheme like it) cannot deliver on that score.nnHowever, private capital is prepared to get involved through two principal routes;na) Directly in schemes exploiting the economic potential in and around stations built as part of the new line. So, for example you can expect private investors to start queuing up, once the project reaches a point of no-return (so that means Royal Assent for the Hybrid Bill, sometime during Jan-Feb 2015), to join in development of the Birmingham City Centre Station Terminus at Curzon Street nb) Indirectly through the sale of renewable leases on already constructed lines. The u00a32.1bn sale of a renewable lease to the Ontario Borealis Infrastructure and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan was an example of this concept. The long term and stable revenue properties of HS1 represent an idealninvestment for pension plan operators.nnTo summarise, this obsessive desire to deliver a seemingly instantaneous return on an undoubtedly large slice of public investment is both counter productive and ultimately self defeating. I find it ironic that many of the strongest critics of HS2 are instinctive supporters of free market, laissez faire economics – these groups; Adam Smith Institute, Tax Payers Alliance, Institute of Economic Affairs, would happily see HS2 buried and replaced by a series of private toll funded, eight lane motorways – there is a widespread agreement about the looming transport capacity shortfall – if that is the kind of long term future delivered by an irrational pursuit of short term return, I for one want no part of it!

  • Chris

    Suggesting the GCR was built to Berne gauge just shows your ignorance, no such thing existed and it wasnt built to any ‘european’ gauge anyway. What would be the point anyway, the Met couldnt cope with international traffic and the lines through Kent are notoriously gauge limited.

  • Ashley


    You sound like you have a vested interest in getting HS2 built – you seem to do nothing else but to deride those peoples’ views in this conversation which don’t align with yours, that I might even go as far as to suggest that you’re a politician or HS2 Ltd. employee who is worried about his own job being lost if HS2 doesn’t get built.  You’re views suggest that you obviously stand to lose so much if HS2 isn’t built.  What about the majority people in the UK would will lose so much if it is built ?

    Please try to listen to other peoples’ views without being derogatory….

  • Rich

    I don’t work for HS2, I have nothing to do with it, and won’t be using it when it’s built. I want it built because it’s the right thing to do. End of.

    “You sound like you have a vested interest in getting HS2 built”

    The only “vested interests” in this debate are the people who live along the route and overnight have turned into experts on transport, the economy, the environment, technology and anything else you can think of. These people are your “vested interests”. 

  • Elephant_never_forgets

    With being part of an HS2 Community Forum where are you getting the carrying freight element.
    With Phase 1 of HS2 rejoining WCML at Lichfield then there are going to be even more fights over train paths

  • Elephant_never_forgets

    HS2 could be good for business if it’s £2 Billion per year spending went directly to funding jobs doing almost whatever
    It’s the NETT equivalent COST to HM Treasury of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND new jobs at a £30,000 when Tax & NI on the slary and VAT on the spending of the remainder is included
    That doesn’t include the indirect (probable) increase in retail jobs needed to deal with all that increased spending power
    Increased passenger capacity is not a High Level Project outcome as HM Treasury “Green Book” requires nor is there any mention of any other direct outcomes nor the methods used to check that HS2 was the best method of spending the money to achieve the as yet unstated HLOS
    If the jobs were North of Birmingham then it would go some way to achieving some rduction in the North – South divide of which there were original hints but which all seem to have gone quiet in recent mentions

  • Elephant_never_forgets

    There is also a large evidence base of the cost of Rail Schemes being seriously underestimated at the outset

  • Elephant_never_forgets

    Whilst not saying the claimed value of timesaving for business journeys is true the value of £70,000 in WEBTAG is not salary but the TOTAL cost to the employer where the overhead of employing somebody is between 40% & 100% giving salaries between £35K & £50K
    theresa Villiers has stated in Hansards that 70% of thos expected to use HS2 will not be business users so that falls over as well

  • Elephant_never_forgets

    Commuting into the London terminiii seem to be the most congested yet Euston seems to be very low down the list according to the relevent RUS

  • Elephant_never_forgets

    As to less domestic flights
    Greengauge 21 (major Pro HS2) have previously presented that there will not be major modal switch to rail where the journey is over 3½ hours which just rules out London ~Scotland
    Atkins in an update report to HS2 Ltd THEMSELVES have said that those who use domestic flights from Heathrow are not in the right catchment area to use HS2 so it isn’t a viable alternative for them

  • usually because they get delayed.  And what happens when you delay things?  They cost much much more.

    Every major rail project that has overspent, has been delayed by political wrangling. 

  • RichardH

    Not specifically a reply to you, just a related observation.

    BA announced today it’ll start flying Heathrow to Leeds/Bradford. Naturally the Leeds chamber of commerce expressed its delight at this.
    Leeds to Kings Cross takes 2hrs 15. And you can work the entire time. I’d be amazed if you could go city centre to city centre by plane any faster, let alone more productively. 
    As Atkins say, it only makes sense if the southern final destination is somewhere near Heathrow.