Review chief’s HS2 support driven by £9bn sunk costs and ‘fragile’ state of construction sector
The chair of the government-ordered review of High Speed 2 (HS2) based his recommendations on the amount of money already spent on the project, the tough position the UK construction industry found itself in and because property along the route had already been acquired.
Doug Oakervee told Transport for the North (TfN)’s Annual Conference that the report’s recommendation to go ahead with the whole scheme was “largely driven” by four factors.
Those factors were:
- £9bn sunk costs
- Impact cancelling the line would have on construction sector
- Land and properties had already been “blighted” along route
- To alleviate West Coast Main Line capacity problems
“Firstly, £9bn had already been spent and the opportunity to recover any of that was minimal,” Oakervee said.
“The land, properties and communities along the route had been blighted for many years. The construction industry was in a very fragile position and had HS2 been cancelled it would have done tremendous harm to the supply chain across the whole of the UK and the construction industry in general.”
The fourth factor was the fact that the West Coast Main Line between London and Rugby was “operating beyond capacity and hindering a reasonable timely service for passengers and freight to the North”.
Main construction on Phase 1 of the project started in September, with the government’s notice to proceed given in April. Royal assent for Phase 2a – between Birmingham and Crewe – is expected in the new year.
Phase 2b, however, has been a topic of recent discussion.
Last month, the Department for Transport revealed that Phase 2b – which involves a western leg from Crewe to Manchester and an eastern leg from the West Midlands to Leeds – will be split into multiple “more manageable” bills to be passed in Parliament.
Fears that its eastern leg could be axed had already been raised in October when the government launched its consultation on design changes to the western leg of the route.
Rail industry figures and senior politicians have expressed further concern this week regarding the eastern section, after the publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC’s) rail assessment of the North and Midlands.
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