HS2 boss says North will be condemned to 'decades of economic failure' without it

An artist's impression of an HS2 train

An artist's impression of an HS2 train

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

THE North will be condemned to decades of economic failure without the HS2 high-speed rail project, the project’s director has warned.

Sir David Higgins urged Labour to end uncertainty over its position by recognising that “Labour areas” will benefit hugely from 225mph trains to London.

And he hinted his crunch report, next month, will calls for the Northern sections of the line to be built at the same time as the London-Birmingham stretch.

Sir David said, of the current Bill: “If we miss this gateway, then we are basically sentencing the North to underperfoming economically for a long, long time.”

The HS2 chairman also said: “The North is terrified this will be a bypass to Birmingham and then the project will lose momentum. That would be disastrous.”

And, ahead of a report that will set out how the £42.6bn bill can be reduced, Sir David added: “Starting in the North would be cheaper. It helps cost.”

Last week, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls again cast doubt on whether HS2 was the “best way to spend the money”, despite the strong support of Labour’s transport spokeswoman.

Yet a cross-party consensus is widely viewed as essential to push through any expensive and complicated infrastructure scheme that will span many general elections.

HS2 is intended to deliver high-speed trains from London to Birmingham by 2026 – and a Y-shaped network, on to Leeds and Manchester, seven years later.

Through trains will cut the Darlington to London journey time to 1hr 51mins, the department for transport (Dft) says – 32 minutes quicker than at present.

Durham City will be “less than two hours from Birmingham” and the Tees Valley could enjoy new direct rail links to London, by freeing up space on existing lines.

In an interview with a national newspaper, Sir David also urged Parliament to press the accelerator on passing the enormous, 50,000-pages HS2 Hybrid Bill into law.

Transport ministers increasingly fear it will not go through before the general election, in May 2015, leaving it to the next Government to pick up – or abandon.

Sir David said: “The longer you take in committee stage, you take the risk of adding cost. And if it takes three years instead of one, it adds two years of inflation to the project.

“The meter is always ticking. It's the biggest risk to the project - it's an act of political will.”

The HS2 chairman also warned that engineers were in “high demand around the world”, adding: “There are far fewer top engineers who can run this project than there are bankers.”

And he underlined the miserable consequence of failing to build HS2, with passenger numbers on the rise.

Sir David warned: “You won't get on trains. It will be like the Piccadilly Line at peak hour. Usually I stand for three trains before I can get on.”

Comments (5)

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9:36am Tue 4 Feb 14

David Lacey says...

HS2 will NEVER come to the North East. It ends at Church Fenton east of Leeds. Thereafter the trains will switch to the existing line. Cancel this vanity project NOW and invest in improvements to the existing East Coast Main Line.
HS2 will NEVER come to the North East. It ends at Church Fenton east of Leeds. Thereafter the trains will switch to the existing line. Cancel this vanity project NOW and invest in improvements to the existing East Coast Main Line. David Lacey
  • Score: 4

10:27am Tue 4 Feb 14

punkrocker says...

this will be an expensive folly
the northeast is already condemned we have highest unemployment etc. this vanity project wont alter anything
this will be an expensive folly the northeast is already condemned we have highest unemployment etc. this vanity project wont alter anything punkrocker
  • Score: 5

11:24am Tue 4 Feb 14

The Grim North says...

From a NE perspective Leeds is down south. The NE would benefit more from new rolling stock and capacity on the East Coast line, fully dualling the A1 through Northumberland, dualling both the A66 and A69, sorting out the Newcastle Western bypass as well as reopening flights to Heathrow from Teesside. All could be done at a fraction of the cost of a few miles of the HS2 line. Rail links to London are vital but I don't see much need or demand in the North East for a HS rail link direct to the centre of Birmingham. I certainly wouldn't be in any rush to get there.
From a NE perspective Leeds is down south. The NE would benefit more from new rolling stock and capacity on the East Coast line, fully dualling the A1 through Northumberland, dualling both the A66 and A69, sorting out the Newcastle Western bypass as well as reopening flights to Heathrow from Teesside. All could be done at a fraction of the cost of a few miles of the HS2 line. Rail links to London are vital but I don't see much need or demand in the North East for a HS rail link direct to the centre of Birmingham. I certainly wouldn't be in any rush to get there. The Grim North
  • Score: 3

12:21pm Tue 4 Feb 14

David Lacey says...

Guess what TGN - the leg to the centre of Birmingham is an offshoot of the main HS2 line, so there is NO guarantee that trains starting their journey in the North East will actually be the super-fast stuff that goes further south. They (the trains) might well be much slower conventional rolling stock. See: http://assets.hs2.or
g.uk/sites/default/f
iles/consultation_li
brary/pdf/West%20Mid
lands%20to%20Leeds%2
0route%20section%20m
ap.pdf
for the route.
.
The alternative ways you suggest to spend a fraction of the cash would produce massive benefits for us. But there is no way that they will happen.
Guess what TGN - the leg to the centre of Birmingham is an offshoot of the main HS2 line, so there is NO guarantee that trains starting their journey in the North East will actually be the super-fast stuff that goes further south. They (the trains) might well be much slower conventional rolling stock. See: http://assets.hs2.or g.uk/sites/default/f iles/consultation_li brary/pdf/West%20Mid lands%20to%20Leeds%2 0route%20section%20m ap.pdf for the route. . The alternative ways you suggest to spend a fraction of the cash would produce massive benefits for us. But there is no way that they will happen. David Lacey
  • Score: 2

11:38pm Tue 4 Feb 14

NorthStart says...

Stage One of NorthStart's alternative to the HS2 route and stations would start next to the M62 near Leeds. That's half way between London and Edinburgh and a lot nearer the Tees and Tyne than HS2's London-first start:

http://hsnorthstart.
wordpress….
Stage One of NorthStart's alternative to the HS2 route and stations would start next to the M62 near Leeds. That's half way between London and Edinburgh and a lot nearer the Tees and Tyne than HS2's London-first start: http://hsnorthstart. wordpress…. NorthStart
  • Score: 0

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