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Sunday, May 19, 2024

HS2 hits back at high-speed doubters

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HS2’s head of engineering and operations said the project is not an “open cheque book” in response to a barrage of negative press coverage about the cost of the planned high-speed rail network.

The comments follow a series of articles and studies over the summer questioning the benefits of HS2 – the most damaging of which was a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) that suggested that the cost of the project could double to more than £80 billion.

In an upcoming article in the October edition of the rail engineer, Tim Smart said: “It is far from clear to me on what real basis these comments have been made.

“It seems to me they were made more on the narrow and short-sighted view that big infrastructure projects are not successful in meeting cost targets than a proper understanding of the proposals and strategies behind HS2.”

He added: “One thing this is not is an open cheque book. This is about making proper and reasonable allowances for the emerging design and other issues that large infrastructure projects demand based on sound engineering and commercial principles and judgement.

“As more detailed information and data accumulates through the life of the project this contingency can and must be effectively managed and managed does not necessarily mean spent.

“So to those who assert that HS2 will cost significantly more, I would ask on what basis do you make these statements? Have you done the work that HS2 has done?”

Critics have also claimed that the money for HS2 could be better spent on a wider programme of smaller infrastructure projects.

“Again to my mind this demonstrates a further misunderstanding of what HS2 will deliver,” Tim added.

“It is not about getting to Birmingham or Manchester, Leeds or any other northern city faster. It is about capacity and connectivity.

“Network Rail has stated that they cannot provide the future capacity the nation will require by piecemeal upgrades.”

One of the few positive HS2 reports came from accountants KPMG whose research claimed that the project would boost the UK economy by £15 billion a year, with Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester set to benefit most.

Tim concluded: “As an engine for growth HS2 will be a significant opportunity for the UK to realise these wider benefit and with the announcement that Lord Deighton is to lead the growth task force these will become even clearer in the future.”

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