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Alex Green responds to John O’Connell’s HS2 article.

Dear Editor                                                                                                                    

The Taxpayers’ Alliance criticises the building of HS2, but again there is no word about the need or the benefits of the lines or the interaction with Northern Powerhouse Rail. No mention of the building of HS3 across the Pennines from Manchester to Leeds as part of the high-speed network that originates from the building of HS2. No mention of the benefits to the British people designing and building the line nor of the next generations that will prosper from its existence – as we have from the Victorian era.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance needs to accept that a prime purpose of government is to co-ordinate and finance the building of national infrastructure so that businesses and industries can prosper and produce tax revenue. We need these seed corns from government as no private company would undertake the long-winded planning and building processes.

There is a renewed determination to build new national infrastructure. With preliminary work having started in 2018 and now providing 9000 highly skilled jobs, HS2 is shovel-ready for the construction stage, land and property has been purchased and the line has great support in the north and the West Midlands. What better way to rekindle our infrastructure portfolio than to continue with an agreed project that has passed all these tests of public scrutiny. British jobs, manufacturing, building materials, taxes paid and benefits for everyone to tap into – including property developers.

The UK has horrendous planning processes – a feature very well known by property developers. HS2 was begun by Lord Adonis back in 2010. The lines are planned as three sections with physical work from London to Birmingham now started with a date of opening to Old Oak Common in 2026 and to London Euston by 2029. The next sections are expected to pass all Parliamentary stages in 2021 with a target opening date of Birmingham to Crewe in 2029 and to Manchester and Leeds by 2038. Thus, it will have taken 19 years to plan and build 250 track miles of high-speed railway between Birmingham and London and it is forecast to take 28 years to build the full 700 track miles from Leeds and Manchester to London. 

In 2004, China had no high-speed railways. But in just 15 yearsthey have introduced 220mph trains on 18,000 track miles. Shanghai to Beijing are 819 miles apart – London to Glasgow and back and the line was built as one project in just 3 years. It now carries 180 million people a year profitably and safely at average speeds of 185mph taking just over 4 hours – the same time as we achieve for only half that distance.

HS2 costs were updated in 2015 for the 700 track miles plus stations, trains and depots as being £55.7 billion including 31% contingency funding. There has been no updates since then so the Review will be the first opportunity to update the estimates with 5 years of inflation and numerous changes to specifications. 5 years Inflation will be at least 10% giving an increase of £6 billion just for taking so long to sanction the scheme. This spending will be spread evenly over the next 15 years. 

Perhaps it would be better for the Taxpayers Alliance to concentrate on finding ways to deduce unnecessary planning costs?

HS2 increases capacity for local trains in the West Midlands, for towns on the West Coast mainline such as Rugby, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Stafford to receive better services, connectivity improvements to and from northern towns and London, more capacity for freight services, great connections to Manchester and Birmingham airports; plus saving £10 to £15 billion on upgrading the West Coast mainline again in the late 2020s.

I would add a few quotes from some strategically placed politicians and businesses. 


About Alex Green

Alex Green is a retired railway operating executive who spent much of his 35 year career with British Rail on the West Coast main line.

Articles by Alex Green

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