HS2 – Is it worth it?

I have been ambivalent about HS2 and working in the rail industry was somewhat biased towards the idea of building a high-speed rail link. I am not always convinced with the arguments when people say we can spend funds better elsewhere as I find such arguments lack a follow through or a wider perspective (yet I propose to do precisely that in this article). However, the astronomical costs of HS2 are making me question if there is a viable business plan anymore. The drive for its build now seems to be political rather than economic.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says there will be almost 15,000 seats an hour on trains between London and the cities of Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, trebling the current capacity. The plan was HS2 would connect London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, and the East Midlands.

The first phase timing was considered ambitious by the Public Accounts Committee which is due to be opened by the end of 2026 for high-speed travel between London and Birmingham. Subsequent phase to Manchester and Leeds could start being built in the middle of the next decade, with the line to be opened by 2032-33. The cost of phase one (London to Birmingham) has already increased from £16bn to £22bn (an increase of 38 percent) due to the amount of tunneling required and purchase of land. The total cost of HS2 at the moment is expected to be £52bn. Although an article in the Sunday Times quoted one of the people who work at DfT, who made the estimates, who now says that the full cost could be well over £100bn.

According to The DfT journey times will be substantially reduced thus making major cities in the Midlands, North West and Scotland more accessible. HS2 is also expected to reduce the overcrowding and transfer over 4 million journeys from road to rail. The cost of the tickets has not been declared, but DfT does not expect to charge a premium for this service. Ministers claim the London-West Midlands section alone will create around 40,000 jobs, and some MPs believe it could be a catalyst for economic growth and help rebalance the economy between the North and South (political talk – I fear).

Campaigners say that historic houses in Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire will be demolished. Spending £50bn plus is funding taken from other areas where it could be better spent.  The UK is heavily in debt, public finances are stretched, and this government has failed to prioritise the impact of HS2 spending against other opportunities. The Sunday Times report notes that the cost of HS2 “could fix the nation’s potholes, upgrade the existing West Coast Main Line, fix other rail bottlenecks, turn busy A-roads into dual carriageways, build a third runway at Heathrow, invest £2bn in cycle networks and provide superfast broadband across the country.”

The Party briefing noted:

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has admitted that the second phase of HS2, from Birmingham to Leeds, may never be built. This is another line chalked up on Grayling’s CV of failure.

If HS2 turns out to be just a way of making Birmingham a suburb of London because it can be reached in 30 minutes, it will have fundamentally distorted the purpose of the project.

This Conservative Government are dragging prosperity from the north rather than increasing it, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.

If that is the case is it worth spending £22bn to reduce the travel time to Birmingham by 30 minutes. Surely, we can spend the funds on other priority services that have been hit so severely during this austerity period.

* Cllr. Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • James Bliss 7th Nov '18 - 1:42pm

    Yes it is worth it. And we have started building it anyway so it’s not like we can just stop now lmfao.

  • Clearly not. Look it up. HS2 is a vast vanity project, ‘justified’ by a fraudulent Cost Benefit Analysis, already projected to be hugely over budget that destroys much to achieve next to nothing other than boost politicians’ egos and consultants’ bank balances. Cancel it, spend 25% of the cash on rail projects that deliver something real and spend another 25% on education and police. Bank the rest (its not like we actually have this money in any case!). But no: the second article of the Lib Dem Creed is “I believe in railways, any railways” (after, of course “I believe in Dr. Who”.

  • Yes it’s definitely worth it.

    The arguments over capacity, environmental benefit, and benefit outside London are well-rehearsed. And it’s so far down the line we are wasting our time.

    If this article was about going back on support for Crossrail 3, another new development in London while regional electrification and modernisation projects in the north are postponed and cancelled, then you’re on. But I’ve not heard a single party spokesperson question this.

  • John Marriott 7th Nov '18 - 2:05pm

    Is it worth it? No!
    Is it necessary? No!
    Should it be scrapped now? Yes!
    Should the money be spent on HS3 and the existing network? Yes!

    That makes it 2-2.

  • Lawrence John 7th Nov '18 - 2:18pm

    HS2 is a total white elephant, it will be over budget and late, tickets will be overpriced, and they will reduce the current service to force people onto it. It will never save the time they are quoting – because it has already been stated it will be speed-limited to prevent excessive emissions, and because you have to get to it – when was anybody last in St Pancras station? Even when all is running, the only thing it will do is bring people from Birmingham to London – because NO-ONE ever lived in London to work in Birmingham! The full budgeted cost is £72B. Save £71B and put in super-fast broadband for the entire UK, a solution 21st century solution, not a 19th century solution.

  • nigel hunter 7th Nov '18 - 2:54pm

    The money would be .better spent on upgrading lines from Liverpool to Hull.It could reduce traffic on the M62 and around the ‘spaghetti’ junction circuits around Manchester Could a system be deviseds, installed to take freight off the roads ?.

  • To all those saying, we’ve started it so it’s pointless going back, it’s worth remembering that this is often called the fallacy of the sunk investment. According to the FT, we’ve spent £4.1 billion without putting a shovel in the ground. A lot of this is land purchase, which can be resold, so the true sunk cost is probably nearer £1 billion. If the project’s total cost is going to be £100b and not have a net positive impact on the UK, then it’s still clearly better to waste £1 billion that 100.

  • Peter Watson 7th Nov '18 - 3:45pm

    @John Marriott
    I totally agree

    @Lawrence John “NO-ONE ever lived in London to work in Birmingham”
    Brilliantly put. HS2 looks like a great way to expand massively the London commuter belt but not much help for travelling between those other cities.

  • Thank you for reminding us of the sunk cost fallacy, George. I thought idt was widely known, but apparently not, lmfao

  • The HS2 vanity project has never been worth it!

    As has been admitted by relevant ministers, it is highly unlikely the line will be extended beyond Birmingham ie. we made promises that we knew we would not keep just to get the project to go ahead.

    Secondly, anyone who has read the findings of the impact of HS1 back in 2012, will know that it to has failed to deliver, with the vast majority of rail passengers now ether enduring a worse service due to there being less capacity on the services that people actually use and for those that do use HS1, many are finding that the door-to-door journey time is no better and in fact is worse than before the introduction of HS1…

    What is worth it, is spending a very small fraction of the monies on completing the electrification of the Midland mainline (St.Pancras-Sheffield); a project that actually had a business case and one that showed a return on investment within 10 years.

    The fact that the Westminster crowd have gone ahead with HS2 and crippled the Midland Mainline upgrade (they are only electrifying St.Pancras-Corby and so instead of totally replacing the expense diesel trains with significantly cheaper all-electric trains, they have chosen the pig: dual fuel-trains – so no maintenance or fuel savings…), speaks volumes about the real abilities of those at Westminster – which probably also explains Brexit…

  • Philip Knowles 7th Nov '18 - 7:09pm

    It worries me that the country that invented the railways is so unsupportive of them. The reason HS2 was proposed was that the West Coast line is at capacity and there is no potential to expand it.
    In Japan and France they are so far ahead of us its ridiculous. In France towns demonstrated when they found that the TGV WASN’T coming their way.
    It is 15 years until 2033 when HS” might make it to Leeds. Between 1825 (when the railway from my birthplace was opened) to 1840 we built 1498 miles of railway – largely by hand – now we can’t build 250 miles in that time – that’s progress

  • David Becket 7th Nov '18 - 8:17pm

    One of the major mistakes the Lib Dems have made is to support this expensive vanity project HS2.

    Yes we need more capacity, yes the North needs better rail connections, yes we need a direct line from the north west to St Pancras, but we do not need to spend a small fortune, and damage the environment, to cut the journey time, station to station, from Manchester to London by 1 hour. When I travelled to London on business the journey at either end took one and a half hours, this reduces considerably the benefit of cutting an hour off the main journey
    Let us spend the money wisely, improve rail travel throughout the country and forget about expanding the London commuter belt to the midlands.
    Upgrade the Yorkshire to London lines, and Crewe to Derby which connects the north west with the continent. Upgrade the lines to the South West and Wales. If extra capacity is needed to Birmingham re-open the old Midland line, at slower speeds.
    Improve east west connections, particularly in the north. HS3 across country makes sense, but not at speeds in excess of 200MPH

    It is the speed that is the issue, we do not have the long distances they have on the continent, apart from Scotland the speed is not value for money. By the time these services come into operation we will have more environmentally means of traction.

    Come on Lib Dems, play your environmental card, and replace HS2 with environmentally sustainable solutions for a low emission future.

  • 1. It is not a vanity project, it is something that we should have completed 20 -30 years ago, but as I have said before we are great in this country for dragging our feet. It is easy for human nature to criticize, much harder to be positive. The same arguments were put up when the railways were first built and I can recall the negatives about motorways in the 50’s, too expensive, destroy the countryside, we do not really need them etc, although Germany had built them in the 30’s. Our same sluggishmness again. When the West Coast main line was electrified with diversions, slow running etc because to the work, out came the same sort of negativities, why, the expense, do we really need this etc. When diesal replaced steam remember the same happened again.

    2. Of course it is needed, think about the future, not the present, economic development is happening so fast we need a transport system to keep in step. When you witness the slow moving goods traffic and the limitations the present road and rail systems place upon it, in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and economy of course HS2 is required. We need to get out of our comfort zone and work for our granchildren, there is no time to lose.

  • John Marriott 7th Nov '18 - 9:23pm

    @joseph Bourke
    ‘Transit value capture’? ‘Tax Increment Financing’? ‘Special Purpose Levies’? Wow, that sounds pretty heavy stuff. Does that mean the you think that HS2 is a good idea? All I know is that my local railway is in urgent need of upgrading. Level crossings in Lincoln are a nightmare. Taking the line within the city below ground level would ease traffic jams and allow more services to be introduced. Some of that HS2 money could pay for that.

    Building a new line between the Midlands and the South East will probably mean that even more people will start commuting to work ‘down south’. That certainly happened in Lincoln when the East Coast was electrified and the A46 between Lincoln and Newark was dualled. It’s about time those of us in the North got a fair shake.

  • Steve Taylor 7th Nov '18 - 10:01pm

    It is a 19th century answer to ill defined 21st questions.

    Billions to shave what 20 minutes to 30 minutes off a journey time, is it worth it?

    If we spent a fraction of the cost of the project on internet infrastructure we could have the best in the world for decades to come.

    The cost is huge. If we spent the same amount on say refurbishing every station on the network the average budget would be 21 million for each one. So consider that budget spread across the network renewing infrastructure and buying new rolling stock.

    HS2 is being built not for the UK. It is being built to make money for big business.

  • Neil Hickman 7th Nov '18 - 10:09pm

    It always seemed to me that the sensible thing to do with HS2 was to build the bits north of Birmingham first – land values lower, population densities lower, get a great deal more return on the investment.
    I have never been able to understand why it made sense to take HS2 from Euston when HS1 ran into St Pancras, and any saving on journey time to Birmingham is likely to be eliminated by the fact that HS2 will run into Birmingham Curzon St, not Birmingham New St.
    If you are going to throw money at the railway system, it seems to me that doing something underneath Birmingham to address the bottleneck at New Street is the sensible way to go. Birmingham has always been plagued by bottlenecks on its express rail routes – Snow Hill was an infinitely superior station to New Street in many ways, but everything had to try and jam into the tunnel at one end.

  • John Marriott,

    I think we should be listening to the people with direct responsibility for their regions concerning devolution and the ability to capture the uplift in Land Values that comes with major infrastructure developments:

    Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has set out his belief that HS3 (linking Manchester to Leeds) should be the Crossrail of the North. Mr. Burnham, proposed Land Value Tax as one of his policies when he stood in the Labour 2010 leadership campaign and is now understood to be keen on exploring the potential of Land Value Capture as a source of funds for city infrastructure planning and development.
    Mayor Steve Rotherham has said, “Devolution is the single most important means of achieving a more economically balanced and prosperous UK. It transfers powers, resources and autonomy to the places that will be our country’s most important growth engines. It is vitally important that the Government sustains and accelerates its commitment to devolution.”
    Tees Valley
    Mayor Ben Houchen noted, “Everyone knows that the best answers for local people will come from local people. Our first Devolution Deal was ground-breaking, but l want to see the Government build on this ambition and go even further by handing more powers to local communities.”
    West Midlands
    The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said : “This Government more than any other has pushed the devolution agenda with the creation of combined authorities and Mayor’s. I believe now is the time for Government go a step further and provide us with the tools to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities we each face. We are already proving our worth, now let us really kick on with the job.”

  • Pieter-Paul Barker 7th Nov '18 - 11:40pm

    There are already 2 railways from London to Birmingham, I’ve never heard of countries building 3 different railway lines between two cities only 100 miles apart (but I’m sure someone will tell me if there is). High speed rail is for long distances like Sydney to Melbourne which is over 500 miles, or Paris-Lyon 500km (over 300 miles). Much better to build the East-West rail link or suburban rail to get traffic off the roads (and proper broadband of course, as business travel is rapidly diminishing anyway).

  • Malcolm Todd 7th Nov '18 - 11:43pm

    I find it fascinating that so many people are so utterly convinced of the case for or against HS2 that they regard the opposing side as idiots or knaves. Is it only on LDV that railways inspire this much partisan fervour? It’s a bit like reading the comments beneath a YouTube Dr Who video…

  • David Raw,

    I am afraid that I will have to beg to differ on regional Mayoral authorities. This is a model that works successfully in most modern cities. I have to agree with Ricard Kemp in his recent article https://www.libdemvoice.org/devolution-to-the-english-regions-is-not-just-a-good-thing-its-absolutely-essential-58254.html when he writes that our current policy falls woefully short is in two key regards:
    1. It says little about taxation powers. We need at a much more local level to decide which taxes we need and which we don’t which would include specific taxes which are relevant to specific areas.
    2. It doesn’t begin to define the things that ‘London’ should stop doing and leave to us. A good point here is the failure to mention the NHS. It pains me to say so but the Manchester NHS devolution is going well. Money is being spent to meet local needs and priorities. But the list should not end with health. There is no reason why all local transport decisions; training; economic development and employment initiatives; housing and the environment and much more could not be made by people at the appropriate regional or local level in a democratic and transparent way.

    I have posted a link to the APPG on Land Value Capture previously http://bit.ly/APPG-LVC-Report-1. The first evidence session on the role of Land Value Capture in devolved tax proposals includes evidence from James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peteborough who explanshis proposals for a Land Value Cap; Tom Copley AM, Labour’s spokesman for Housing at City Hall who sets out proposals for a trial of Land Value Tax in London; and the Director of Infrastructure for the West of England region who sets out the authorities plans for strategic land assembly.

  • “Bringing Birmingham airport into the groups of international hubs within an hours rail journey of London makes a lot of sense”

    Seeing comments like this, tell me that the person hasn’t actually looked at the details; HS2 doesn’t go particularly near Birmingham Airport – the saving in rail journey time being totally lost in the transfer from the new HS2 station to the airport.

    Also looking at HS2 from the perspective of “Project-based transit value”, as described by Joseph Burke, further shows the intended route is total wrong, as it will deliver very little such value add. Given here we are nearly in 2019 and the HS2 London-Birmingham shuttle was originally proposed by Labour in 2009 and still we are waiting for both an economic case and business case that stands up to being read, let alone any form of scrutiny, should tell anyone who believes it is anything other than a political vanity project to wise up.

    Remember, the experts, with evidence, are saying the next 12 years are critical for climate change. We know our current energy and resource consumption levels are unsustainable. The indication is that fewer of us will be travelling and travelling less in 2033 than we are now…

  • Roland

    The new HS2 Interchange Station is located to the east of Birmingham near the NEC and Jaguar Land Rover and Birmingham International Airport. The Curzon Street station in Birmingham that will include seven high speed platforms is due to open in 2026 serving the borough as well as Birmingham Airport and the NEC .
    Birmingham Airport has just announced plans to invest £500m to increase passenger numbers to 18 million by 2033. It claims the move could add £2.1bn per year to the West Midlands’ economy by improved regional connectivity alongside a direct link to HS2. The Airport has just hired the project director of phase one of HS2’s stations in the West Midlands to further develop their rail link-up plans.

  • William Fowler 8th Nov '18 - 8:07am

    At a time when most rail fares are twice what they should be when compared to EU countries it does seem a rather strange project – no doubt fares will be eye-watering by the time it opens to get some of the money back and fund the other HS2 lines.

    Projects like this a good illustration of why govn spending is out of control even in direst of times (austerity plus brexit), speaks of people putting in little effort to save tax payers loot.

  • Joe Bourke 8th Nov ’18 – 1:35am……….Birmingham Airport has just announced plans to invest £500m to increase passenger numbers to 18 million by 2033.

    Birmingham Airport is the sixth seventh-busiest airport in England with around 12 million passengers….Your ‘forecast’ of 18 million will, considering that the planned expansion of Luton (currently 5th) to 25 million passengers, will still leave Birmingham as, wait for it, the sixth busiest.
    It seems an awful lot of dosh to spend to try and convince anyone to fly into the UK to anairport without ‘London’ in the title (even Luton calls itself London Luton Airport.

  • Ian Hurdley 8th Nov '18 - 9:27am

    The biggest flaw in HS2 is the way it was presented as a vanity project in the first place. Even the name, which invited people to question whether the time saved between London and Birmingham justified the cost, which frankly it does not. The reality, as anyone who travels the route even occasionally can vouch for, is that the West Coast mainline is frequently operating beyond capacity; the last time I travelled from London to Preston people had to stand or sit on the floor as far as the first stop, Warrington where enough passengers left the train to solve the problem. Trains cannot run anymore frequently on the line, nor can the number of carriages be increased sufficiently.
    A second line was and is the best solution, and it makes sense to run the line as far as Glasgow. Whether the decision to build an eastern branch to Edinburgh was sensible I can’t say, being unfamiliar with that route.
    So, if a second line is needed between London and Glasgow, why on earth would you settle for building to 1970’s standards rather than those of the 21st century? That implies higher speeds and a dedicated line so that you get the maximum benefit from the project.
    To put this into historical context, I can remember the hostility towards motorway construction; who today would prefer to drive from Carlisle to London on the A6 – even though through Cheshire and Staffordshire it’s probably quicker than the M6 which is also at or beyond capacity.

  • John Marriott 8th Nov '18 - 9:28am

    @Joe Bourke
    Like David Raw I am not a great fan of Regional Mayors. I want REGIONAL GOVERNMENT! Interesting though that your quotes from Messrs Burnham, Houchen etc would seem to support the case for something major to be done about the North’s infrastructure.

    I am sure from your previous contributions to this and other threads that you have done your research and can evidence your arguments. However, if you can’t carry the majority of people with you, all you are doing is digging yourself into a deeper hole. They often say that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

    The ‘people’ I would like to ‘listen to’ are not necessarily those, who have dined and are still dining at the top table, but more importantly those who quite frankly look around them and ask themselves when are they going to get a piece of the action (you can include Lincolnshire here). Brexit and Trump spring to mind.

  • Nigel Jones 8th Nov '18 - 9:55am

    I opposed HS2 when it became a definite proposal and I was on the local council; Lib-Dems supported all the other parties to oppose its effects on North Staffordshire. We need rail expansion but not this continental model. I am in favour of HS2 London to Birmingham, but north of Birmingham there are so many large urban areas such as North Staffs and Coventry that get missed out due to the idea of such huge speeds. This means congestion around the terminals of the proposed stations and long distances for so many people to get to and from these stations. It is the wrong model for rail expansion in the Midlands and North.
    It is also ridiculous that the proposal does not directly connect to HS1; apparently the engineering design company Arup have worked out such a connection is possible.
    There is no evidence that it will balance the economies, North and South. Thus in France (where there are very large distances of little population between its stations) while cities like Marseille have benefitted, Paris benefitted a lot more. Making more places the commuter belt of London is the wrong aim.
    Our party’s view on this is hugely mistaken, as indicated by its recent statement about it only going as far as Birmingham; the journey time on the existing 2 lines from London to Birmingham needs reducing which is another reason why I support it going that far.

  • John Probert 8th Nov '18 - 10:07am

    Tahir: “…the astronomical costs of HS2 are making me question if there is a viable business plan anymore.”

    A viable business plan would surely link the HS2 high-speed rail project to Midlands airport expansion (which is doubtless far cheaper and more environmentally friendly than expanding Heathrow) thus stimulating economic growth and employment throughout the Midlands and the North. That would be a properly joined-up infrastructure plan.

    It seems that the Department for Transport is dead from the neck up.

  • Ian Hurdley 8th Nov '18 - 10:22am

    @Nigel Jones Having lived for some years in Spain, sadly no longer, my experience of the impact of the Ave high speed lines is that by taking the long distance travellers onto a dedicated line, capacity is released which benefits both local and regional lines. I accept that, like France, Spain is a country with plenty of space to accommodate these lines. However, my very limited experience of Germany suggests that the benefits can be seen even in urban, industrial regions.

  • HS2 is a waste. The NAO and PAC published informative reports saying so. The cost-benefit analysis was negative… until an arbitrary ‘optimism bias’ was added to bring it just positive, but nowhere near the threshold used for approving other projects.
    All comments along the lines of ‘we should invest…why are people against investing’ ignore this point. HS2 is not an investment; it is a waste.
    Travel times will be 20 minutes shorter to a station which is 20 minutes’ away from other transport connections (but that extra travel time wasn’t considered); the benefits assume that people can’t make productive use of travel time, but people do…
    HS2 was chosen by comparison to doing nothing (and still was a bad idea) but no other options, such as upgrading the existing line etc. were investigated.
    The French might be proud of the TGV, but it is a money-hole and has its own problems. France is a bigger country with different needs.
    On top of all this we know that large projects of any sort are fragile and normal budgeting undercosts them. I was saying 5 years ago that £52m was silly and £100bn more realistic.
    I could re-write the NAO and PAC reports here, but I suggest people just read them.

  • Derek Emery 8th Nov '18 - 10:49am

    HS2 is extremely expensive beacause its High Speed. Predictions are it will cost over £200bn according to Luton North MP Kevin Hopkins. This can never be worth it. The time saving is miniscule and ordinary speed trains would have been much cheaper. The maintenance costs will be high due to increased wear at high speed. This will translate into a large annual subsidy to keep it running. HS2 is not even close to being a best choice. The justification for High Speed was the fictituous 20 minute time saving which ignored the fact that people work on trains.

  • Laurence Cox 8th Nov '18 - 11:33am

    HS2 is the wrong line in the wrong place. Originally it was all about shortening the time between Birmingham and London then, when that argument didn’t work, they switched to claiming it was all about capacity on the West Coast Main Line. But, if all we need is extra capacity between London and Birmingham, why not spend money on upgrading the line from Marylebone that goes to Birmingham Snow Hill?

    The truth is that HS2 was always misconceived. A rational HS2 route would have linked to HS1 somewhere north of the Thames Estuary with a spur into St Pancras, stopped at Stansted Airport and then fast to the North of England and Scotland. Its value has to be the replacement of domestic flights: Edinburgh to London has no less than four competing airlines all offering multiple flights each day and when transit and check-in times at the airports are included high-speed rail is competitive on time because it can deliver passengers to city centres.

  • “The new HS2 Interchange Station is located to the east of Birmingham near the NEC and Jaguar Land Rover and Birmingham International Airport.”

    Joe, look at the plans and think! The proposed HS2 route lays to the east of the NEC, the existing WCML NEC/Airport station is to the west of the NEC and airport is further to the west. Looking further at the maps, it is obvious that there is a path for HS2 to the west of the NEC, taking it closer or even under the airport. Yes, it might cost a little more, but given the life of such infrastructure, it is a sensible use of monies and avoids the additional expense of building and operating an airport shuttle…

    Fundamentally, the issue with HS2 is that given the long list of railway projects that have sound economic and business cases that would deliver in reasonable timeframes, is why did the politicians decide to ignore these and go with the shiny new trainset?

    The vanity aspect is further reinforced, by the practical considerations being after-thoughts:
    In the original proposal HS2 didn’t actually go to Birmingham, it effectively stopped near the NEC, passengers were expected to change and use local rail services to get into central Birmingham.
    Hand-waving about extension beyond Birmingham – with an admission last week by the relevant minister, that this is unlikely to ever happen…
    The obvious linkage with HS1 – the politicians thought a 30mph section on a 200mph line would suffice; I see this seems to have been quietly dropped, probably after someone saw the Spanish high-speed rail derailment in 2013 and realised that this would be an accident waiting to happen…

  • John Probert 8th Nov '18 - 11:52am

    @ Simon Shaw.

    My key point is that building that extra runway at a Midlands airport with a direct link to HS2 would bring economic benefit to both SE England and the Midlands/North at a lower economic and environmental cost.

  • John Marriott,

    “However, if you can’t carry the majority of people with you, all you are doing is digging yourself into a deeper hole.”

    If not carrying the majority of people with you when proposing changes to society the Liberal Party/Libdems would never have survived the last 100 years.
    Looking at what works is other countries around the world is just plain common sense. Land Value Capture for major infrastructure projects is widely used outside the UK.

    Those who look around them and ask themselves when are they going to get a piece of the action should be looking at what is right in front of them – the natural resources of the region and people that live in their communities. That is where real wealth lies.

  • Ian Hurdley 8th Nov '18 - 12:55pm

    Purely out of interest, how many of the contributors to this thread live
    a) north of Crewe ?
    b) north of Preston ?
    c) north of Carlisle ?

  • Peter Martin 8th Nov '18 - 1:29pm

    On any sensible rational view HS1 and HS2 is not a sensible use of resources. It would be far better to do more mundane things like:

    1) Reopen many existing closed down lines. Such as one through the Woodhead tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield.
    2) Put in more sidings and loops on existing routes so they can be safely used by both faster through trains and slower local services.
    3) Put in better signalling so that trains can be more safely run closer together.
    4) Increase the length of platforms so longer trains can be operated.
    5) Press on with the electrification program throughout the rail network.

  • Nigel Jones 8th Nov '18 - 2:12pm

    @Ian Hurdley about Spain. A friend of mine when in Spain was told that one result of more high speed lines is the reduction of other services including the closure of one line. This agrees with official acknowledgement from department of transport and others that HS2 would mean halving the number of trains from Stoke direct to London. We also worked out that travel time for people in North Staffs via HS2 would be greater than the existing travel time. Then most importantly of all, Stoke City Council had a report from KPMG that HS2 would have a significant negative effect on the economy of North Staffordshire. Similar, I am told, has been said about other urban areas in the North Midlands.

  • Two points and a conclusion.

    Firstly, big projects have an alarming tendency to ‘generate their own weather’ by which I mean they entrain so much reputational capital that the logic is overwhelmed by the (small ‘p’) politics and vested interests that accrete around them.

    HS2 is a case in point; justifying a scheme designed for speed because what is needed is new capacity is a big red warning flag that the project is badly mis-specified.

    Secondly, by the time it’s operational HS2 will face competition that (AFAIK) isn’t factored into the business case, namely electrically-powered planes.

    It turns out that these can be made with approximately the same range as electric cars for a given state of battery development which is improving by arguably 7% pa, giving a doubling time of about 10 years.

    And the race is on. All the large manufacturers (Airbus, Boeing etc) and numerous start-ups are pouring billions into developing variants, some VTOL, some conventional. Most are small – air taxis for 2 – 6 people – but some are larger. Many/most will no doubt fall by the wayside but, by my reading, the leaders will be hitting the market well before HS2 is running offering point to point travel, initially for the premium market but with costs sure to fall very fast because it’s a huge market and competition will be fierce.

    Here’s just one rather wobbly and hyped UK runner.


    The conclusion has to be that fast rail and airport expansion plans will be upended by a revolution comparable to the coming of the car. We should instead be thinking of ‘motorways in the sky’ and working out how to move more freight onto the railways which will still, IMO, have a bright future – but NOT a fast rail one.

  • “We should instead be … working out how to move more freight onto the railways which will still, IMO, have a bright future”

    A good point Gordon, particularly given the investment, that doesn’t generate much press, being made in the Strategic Rail Freight Network and it’s associated new Road-Rail Freight Depots around the country.

    I suspect HS2 is also an attention deflection project, in that claims are being made that it will increase passenger ‘capacity’ – because the existing WCML out of London is very busy at certain (predictable) times of the day.

    The issue is that ‘capacity’ is very poorly understood. So it is highly unlikely that HS2 (London-Birmingham:Curzon Street) will have any real impact on the capacity and passenger number on the London to Preston (first stop Warrington, via Birmingham:New Street) service. Similarly, the removal of passenger slots on the WCML for freight is also likely to have little impact on the London to Preston service, but will have significant impact on the services serving stations between London and Birmingham and thus capacity available to and used by large numbers of people everyday…

  • David Sheppard 8th Nov '18 - 10:14pm

    HS2 is vital to the West Midlands it should see some of Londons wealth spread up the country. It also had and has cross party support and gets people out of planes and on to greener trains. We need to be building up our infrastructure for future generations and its a great employeer. Its a good Liberal thing to support

  • HS2 IS one of the biggest wastes of money the government has done to date.
    It not needed not wanted and completely useless.

  • Jonathan Pile 8th Nov '18 - 10:34pm

    Great article. HS2 is a run away project run by a rogue corporation. It’s frankly amazing how little those backing this vanity project actually scrutinised the extraordinary false claims made to justify it. HS2 is just like Brexit – a big shiny idea which has been mis-sold and turns out is a distopia. In Yorkshire we now have concrete proof HS2 ltd lies to communities and parliament over the numbers of properties to be demolished and costs of the project. The North wants Northern Powerhouse Rail yet the HS2 Plan prevents the objective of 30 mins – Manchester-Sheffield and the Leeds-Sheffield loop is unfunded & hugely damaging. People want trains they use working now not a rich man’s train they can’t afford.HS2 doesn’t connect with HS1, Heathrow or go to Scotland as envisaged by original Lib Dem plans. Rightly Vince Cable and Norman Baker have called for a rethink now. People in the North were sold a turkey which prevent the East West connectivity they need. People of the South were forced to have HS2 because of the North. In Yorkshire there is only 2% tunnel compared to 22% Tunnel south of Birmingham. If the tunnel is added in the North it kills the BCR for Phase 2B. Cancel Phase 2B there is no case for Phase 1. Better ideas including Lib Dem ones such as HSUK, HS1A and Hyperloop were ignored for a huge turkey.

  • Tony Greaves 9th Nov '18 - 1:29am

    I am sorry but this article is the usual tendentious rubbish from people who pick up bits of hearsay from here and there and keep prattling on with the same old stuff. Meanwhile all being pushed by people who just want all the money spent on yet more local road and rail schemes in London and the South East! The truth is that the alternative would be NOTHING for the North. All these people who think they would get their own particular pet project if only HS2 was cancelled are in cloud cuckoo land. The real threat is that the repercussions of cancelling HS2 would be the beginning of a terminal decline for UK railways.

  • Tahir Maher Tahir Maher 9th Nov '18 - 8:05am

    Thank you all for your comments. I am still not sure I would back HS2 I understand the arguments. I think the point for me is we have genuine issues with spending on social care, schools etc yet we are pushing projects like this (and I wouldn’t mind it if it was fixed cost but it just keeps going up) which could cost well over £50bn, we have Trident that will cost over its life over £60bn we will have a significant Brexit cost that will hit us. You do have to ask the question do we really have our priorities right. An old quote comes to mind “get a roof over your head first before you think about buying a BMW”

  • John Marriott 9th Nov '18 - 8:44am

    @Tony Greaves
    “Cancelling HS2 would be the beginning of the terminal decline of U.K. railways”. Please explain, Your Lordship.

  • Tony Greaves 9th Nov ’18 – 1:29am…….Meanwhile all being pushed by people who just want all the money spent on yet more local road and rail schemes in London and the South East!

    I have yet to read an article from anyone who is anti-HS2 suggesting that the money saved should be spent in the way you describe. As John Marriott say, “Please explain?”

  • John Probert 9th Nov '18 - 9:21am

    @ Simon Shaw
    Simon, Is there really any firm time frame for an extra runway at Birmingham Airport?
    Speaking at the New Civil Engineer Airports conference, Urban Growth Company managing director Huw Rhys Lewis said: ”Longer term if the need ever came about it would probably be beyond our lifetimes.”

  • @Tony Greaves “The truth is that the alternative would be NOTHING for the North. “
    Given the minister has said that it is highly unlikely that HS2 will get beyond Birmingham, it looks like the North will get NOTHING, yet be expected to pay for a rather expensive London Birmingham shuttle…

    If you really want to invest in the North, I suggest you lobby to get the HS2 monies redirected to rail projects in the North; there are several to chose from with economic cases and businesses cases that stand up to scrutiny.

  • @Simon –
    Transport Secretary admits northern leg of £56bn project may never be built

    So given a London-Birmingham:Curzon Street shuttle is delivered in 2033, I don’t see significantly improved journey times for destinations north of Birmingham:New Street, currently served by the WCML.

    The capacity argument etc. only works for specific destinations. You only need to look at the evidence from HS1 to understand that whilst ‘capacity’ in that region may have increased, the capacity (and services) available to the vast majority of passengers who regularly use trains in that region has actually decreased.

    The increased frequency expectation and argument whilst reasonable, isn’t going to happen, because ‘capacity’ on the WCML is being reshuffled (before HS2 opens) to allow more freight services. One of the problems with mixing passenger traffic with freight is that you are mixing trains with very different performance characteristics, so it isn’t just a straight swap: one 125 Pendolino slot for one freight train; it is in fact more like remove five adjacent Pendoline slots to permit one freight train slot per section of line – Euston-Rugby was divided into 5 sections.

    Your argument about journey times also assumes that north-south journey times are more important than east-west journey times…

    Interestingly, Virgin are currently experimenting with their ticketing restrictions and discovering that these can have a big impact on overcrowding on some early evening departures from Euston…

  • Peter Watson 9th Nov '18 - 3:03pm

    @Simon Shaw “to use my most commonly used WCML route of Liverpool to Euston, I would certainly say that the 30 to 40 minute improvement (around 25%) in journey times is a significant improvement.”
    But by the time you factor in your journey to Liverpool (from Southport?) and the time to change trains or park a car, is that improvement still significant?
    That is my main concern about the benefits of HS2. I would still need to travel to a mainline station (Crewe or Liverpool: picking up Ian Hurdley’s question, I’m north of Crewe and south of Preston!), so the huge expense of speeding up part of a trip to London does not seem as worthwhile or as beneficial as improvements to services and lines which connect other cities (e.g. Liverpool to Norwich). Just ensuring that existing train services in and out of Liverpool Lime Street were more reliable would be good as well!

  • @Simon – re: “Not in the bag”
    Yes, the pot might be half full or it might be half empty! 🙂
    Currently, from what I can ascertain from http://www.legislation.gov.uk, only Phase One: “a railway between Euston in London and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre in Staffordshire, with a spur from Water Orton in Warwickshire to Curzon Street in Birmingham.” has the go ahead.

    With the legislation for phase 2 being delayed. But in any case, I note that HS2 services to Liverpool will be provided over “existing tracks” ie. it will remove capacity from WCML services so that it can be made available to HS2 services.
    So I detect from the tone of your answer a certain amount of smugness, that you will benefit, but many of your neighbours won’t. It’s not that I don’t understand your viewpoint; I regularly enjoy the 6 minute Javelin journey from St.Pancras to Stratford Int’l to visit the velodrome (although not the hassle of getting a small group of teenagers and bikes across the rail network).

  • OnceALibDem 9th Nov '18 - 7:53pm

    Vince has posted a tweet ending #StopHS2

  • Adam: HST is needed and wanted and would be very useful with the correct route but it costs too much like the rest of the railways. However, costs cannot be brought down as that would be too embarrassing as it would expose all the other outrageous wasting of money in Britain.

  • Peter Davies 10th Nov '18 - 1:48pm

    The vanity in the project lies in our unwillingness to accept that others got there first. There are several technologies out there which we could have bought off the shelf that would have done a perfectly good job sooner for a lot less money. We will be spending billions re-inventing the wheel (amongst other parts).

    A route that conformed to the slightly more tolerant TGV standard could curve a bit more, go up and down a bit more and hence avoid a lot more conflicts. A lot of conflicts could also have been avoided by giving in once defeat was inevitable. It’s not surprising that in a crowded country with an exhaustive and expensive system of planning enquiries that you will end up tunnelling a lot. It’s strange that the original designers didn’t know that.

  • More evidence that the scheme is vastly over-engineered and overpriced


  • @David – disagree about HS2 being “vastly over-engineered”. One of the big challenges with HS2 has been anticipating the cost overruns.

    With HS1, the cost overruns resulted in many corners being cut during construction resulting in a significantly inferior product. With HS2, learning from HS – to some extent, the initial build budget has been enlarged by a risk allowance; giving the potential for the project to be delivered within budget and thus permitting much political crowing. Additionally, with HS2 the government from the outset have aimed to keep costs down and hence have gone with the bargain basement project – which it designers acknowledged failed to satisfy many of the government’s mandatory requirements…

    We saw this approach being taken in the 1980’s with the road expansion, for example, the community asset Twyford Down being replaced by Twyford Void, something with zero community value, just because some idiot politicians wanted to save a few pounds.

    So it is hard to determine just what is being said here in the context of HS2. Is this £7bn to come out of the risk budget (yes the HS2 risk budget is substantial) or is it to come out of the assigned project costs budget.

    One of the areas where we can expect to see (political) cost savings is in the trackbed construction. Whilst the chosen route might be capable of supporting 400km per hour services, the actual trackbed determines the actual running speeds. Currently HS2 are aiming at 360km per hour, however, everywhere else have top speeds of 300 or 320km per hour. Given HS2 have always intended to do a “major upgrade” in the future, I can see trackbed costs being moved into this future upgrade, with the result the headline line speed falling either into line with other high-speed rail lines or reduced further and deliver a service using Pendolino/Javelin trains with a top speed of 225km per hour (140mph)…

    Interestingly, the running of Pendolino trains on HS2 very neatly resolves many of the issues of HS2 going north of Birmingham, where the intent is to use existing trackbeds etc. (and all the problems that creates) further undermining the case for dedicated HS2 lines north of Birmingham. It also does address the ‘capacity’ issue, as the (rush hour) capacity bottleneck is largely on the Euston-Rugby section of the WCML.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Jeff
    Michael BG 20th Feb '24 - 1:23am: The Brexiteers thought the EU would not stick to its rules regarding trading with the UK. No rule breaking w...
  • Martin Bennett
    Entering a coalition is inherently perilous for us. In 2010 our vote was divided between convinced Lib Dems, anti-Labour voters, anti-Tory voters and protest vo...
  • Alex Macfie
    Ian Patterson: We were never even in contention in most of the Blue Wall seats we are now targeting. Previously safe Tory seats are now ultra-marginal, and that...
  • Nonconformistradical
    @Mohammed Amin Believe it or not some local objections might actually be valid. Such as a proposal to build in an area which might increase flood risk. Do yo...
  • Mohammed Amin
    I think the journalist John Rentoul deserves a trademark on QTWTAIN (questions to which the answer is no.) I have no objection to self-build for those with t...