16 Mar 2014

Speed up HS2 in the north’, says Higgins report

Sir David Higgins, the boss of the HS2 high-speed rail project, proposes a speeding up of the building of the northern, phase two, section of the £50bn project, which is currently set to open in 2033.

Sir David also called for a larger development at Euston – the project’s southern terminus.

In a report entitled HS2 Plus, Sir David said reducing the contingencies which have pushed the total cost of the project up would be “irresponsible”.

But he said cost cuts might be possible later and he laid down the gauntlet to politicians by saying the speedier the HS2 legislation the better for cost reductions.

Sir David, the former London Olympics supremo, said HS2 was “vital for the future of the country”.

He added: “The cost and impact have to be recognised and acknowledged, but so too do the cost and impact of doing nothing.

“Without HS2, the people of this country will continue to face the failures of our transport system on a daily basis.

“This contingency has pushed the price of phase one – from London to Birmingham – up to £21.4bn with £3bn for the trains, while the cost of the second phase, taking the line in a Y-shape to north west and north east England is put at £21.2bn with around £4.5bn for the trains.

Not finished until 2032/2033

Phase one, which takes the line through Tory heartlands in the Chilterns to Birmingham, is set to be completed in 2026 while phase two is likely to be finished around 2032/33.

The project is fiercely championed by some and bitterly opposed by others with shadow chancellor Ed Balls concerned about the cost and other former Labour grandees expressing reservations about the scheme.

In his report launched in Manchester on Monday, Sir David, who helped mastermind the London Olympics plans, said the government should “accelerate phase two as soon as possible”.

This would take the line 43 miles further north than planned, to a new transport hub at Crewe in Cheshire which could be completed by 2027, six years earlier than planned.