Is upgrading Victorian infrastructure better than building HS2?

HENRY Overman, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics — who declares that he used to be an adviser to HS2 Ltd but is now a sceptic — has claimed HS2 is poor value for money compared with other transport plans, and may well be poor value for money compared with alternatives that ‘address exactly the same set of problems.’ (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10454186/S2-is-bad-value-and-thats-a-fact.html)

There are others, too, who have looked at the alternatives, put forward by W S Atkins in conjunction with Network Rail to the HS2 Strategic Business Plan, and taken a similar view — even though the alternatives are reckoned to require at least 14 years of major disruption at weekends affecting all three of the existing north-south main lines: the East Coast, Midland and West Coast routes.

But it has to be asked if such an alternative option is worth pursuing? — bearing in mind that the additional capacity to be provided would be much less than that offered by HS2, and after completion no further significant capacity could be provided without then building new infrastructure at great additional cost. Continue reading

If not HS2 – then what?

It is clear from the detailed work done by Network Rail and Atkins that the alternatives often promoted by opponents to HS2 would need as many as 2,770 weekend possessions spread over 14 years, creating upheaval and dislocation on all three north-south main lines for well over a decade. When the dust had settled, the upgrades would provide only around a third of the additional capacity offered by HS2.  Continue reading