THE strongest hint yet that the controversial link through Camden to HS1 is to be dropped from the first phase of High Speed Two was given today as industry leaders warned that failing to build HS2 will leave a clogged Britain, unable to meet its full potential and lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of infrastructure development.
There would be a stagnating effect on Britain’s economy if HS2 does not go ahead, with key regions becoming increasingly disconnected as congestion clogs the overloaded national transport system, according the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group – comprising Alstom, Atkins Global, Bechtel, Greengauge 21, Hitachi, Keolis, Parsons Brinckerhoff, the Railway Industry Association and Siemens Rail.
Their new report ‘Great Britain: connected or not?’ says only a small fraction of the funding allocated to HS2 is likely to be allocated to other transport and infrastructure projects if the scheme is killed off.
“On balance, our expert view is that a large part of the £40 billon budget would not be reallocated to other capital programmes, but used to write down Government debt. This is because the debt write-down is a continuing priority and because there are few capital projects available to Government that can generate the scale and distribution of benefits that HS2 is forecast to provide.”
It adds: “The most likely estimate is that just £2bn of the £42bn allocated to HS2 will be made available to the Department of Transport. Based on current [transport] spending patterns, only £0.67bn of this would potentially be reallocated to national rail,” the report claims.
The report points out that the Department for Transport is now the biggest infrastructure spender of all government departments and there are no other major transport infrastructure projects waiting to be progressed – because none offers an economic return like HS2, plus its potential to raise £8 billion in 2026 and another £8 billion in 2033 when concessions similar HS1’s are let.
It states: “Past experience suggests cancellation now would most likely lead to the same project being revived – and built at greater cost later on. Crossrail (rejected 1994) and the Third London Airport (halted 1976) prove the point.”
The industry leaders report has been published ahead of the review by David Higgins, the new chairman of HS2 Ltd, whch was requested by David Cameron. The Higgins review is expected to be published on 17 March.
Asked by journalists if the report will put impetus back into the project, Leaders Group founder Jim Steer, of Greengauge 21, said: “Yes – he (David Higgins) is a deliverer of major projects and inspires confidence.”
But asked about rumours that the link between HS2 and HS1 across Camden Town would be dropped, Jim Steer said: “I think it has been well trailed that it will not progress as part of phase one.”
Another leading member of the Industry Leaders Group, Steve Scrimshaw – Managing Director, Rail Systems UK, at Siemens – said HS2 trains would be the most advanced in the word, serving stations that would revolutionize the passenger experience, and there would be a step change in reliability and resilience.
“Compare the performance on HS1 during the recent bad weather and that of the domestic network in Kent,” he said.