Monday 16 July 2012
The Government has today announced a £9 billion investment package in current railways during 2014-19, which includes several already planned projects such as Crossrail and the Oxford to Milton Keynes line. These improvements will deliver faster journey times on the existing rail network, which makes the case for investing £33 billion in a new high speed rail line even more shaky. For example, the package includes the electrification of the Midland Mainline, which will speed up journeys to Sheffield, one of the cities on the proposed HS2 Y network.
Even HS2 Ltd recognised back in 2009 that improvements to the Midland Mainline could damage the case for HS2. In an email to the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive their Chief Engineer, Andrew McNaughton, wrote:
"I think there has to be care not to undermine a very strong business case for a proper high speed line by proposing an investment in an intermediate solution which gives a proportion of the benefits and potentially allows government to say 'they have got part of what they wanted so the priorities now move elsewhere.'"
Anti-HS2 campaigners have been proposing these incremental improvements to the existing rail network for some time as an alternative to HS2, pointing out that they bring real benefits to more people more quickly and at far lower cost.
Hilary Wharf, Director High Speed 2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) says:
"It is clearly a sensible approach to deliver incremental benefits to the existing network. We welcome it, albeit the pot is now smaller because of the huge £33bn cost of HS2. Government’s plan for 2014-19 will bring early real benefits to far more people than a vanity project like HS2, that helps few people and not for 15 to 20 years."
The Stop HS2 campaign has been holding a rally outside Parliament today as part of a national Day of Action against HS2.