Scrapping it or de-scoping the High Speed 2 would be a “disaster” for the UK, the leader of the sub-national transport body for the Midlands said last week.
Responding to the government’s announcement that it will review the £56bn project and decide its future by the end of the year, Maria Machancoses, Director of Midlands Connect, said: “The massive benefits of HS2 to the Midlands are already being felt. Although a review must rightly scrutinise the project’s deliverability, benefits and costs, we must not lose sight of the fact that HS2 will transform our transport network for the next century.
“Scrapping it or de-scoping it would be a disaster for the Midlands and the whole country.”
Machancoses also argued that HS2 underpins the case for improvements that it is proposing to the classic rail network, including its flagship Midlands Rail Hub scheme to transform east-west links across the Midlands.
While he is not opposed to looking at how HS2 delivers value for money, Andy Burnham, the directly-elected Major of Greater Manchester, said that people in the North would be wary of the review.
“Both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are vital if we are to truly rebalance our country’s economy,” he said. “We need a modern, high speed, rail system, like France or Germany, that connects all parts of the country and is fit for the 21st century.
“It feels like we are at a critical moment when the government’s commitment to the North is about to be tested.”
Voicing a different opinion, the directly-elected Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, urged the government to scrap HS2 and share out the transport billions across the country.
“I won’t be alone in hoping that this particular gravy train is stopped in its tracks – or at least scaled back,” he said. “Of course a review does not mean HS2 will definitely be scrapped or downsized, but it raises the possibility.
“I’d like to see those HS2 billions split between the other major transport schemes that could bring far wider benefit to UK Inc, and massively improve travel, trade, and tourism for people throughout our country.”
Douglas Oakervee, whose 60-year career includes serving as non-executive chairman of HS2 between March 2012 and December 2013, will lead the review and will work with Lord Berkeley, a long standing critic of the project, as his deputy.
Announcing the review, transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.
“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.”
About the Author
This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.