Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Lower cost, but lower expectation?

Posted in Great Britain, High Speed, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 2 June 2010

A report has come out, authored by Sir Andrew Foster, who was the head of the Audit Commission, and David Ross, former chairman of National Express, which suggests that High Speed 2 could be built for as little as £6bn, which is comparable to the cost of constructing High Speed 1. The way this report suggests this can be achieved is to have the line avoid city centres – half of the cost of building HS1 came from constructing the tunnels beneath London to reach St Pancras. The proposal in this report is to essentially use HS2 almost as an airport link, with Manchester Airport, Birmingham International and Heathrow (via Old Oak Common) connected by a single route. Of course, given that this is the Age of Austerity (perhaps leading to a new Age of the Train), cutting half the potential cost of a project like this is not to be sneezed at. But with something like this you need to look at the project as a whole, rather than merely the balance sheet. Building HS2 without entering city centres means that the links to the high speed service need to be extremely robust, and not fall down with the advent of some unforseen difficulty. Of course, given the new government’s cancellation of any Heathrow expansion, with more of an emphasis on using regional airports like Birmingham, connecting them to HS2 is a good idea, as it puts them roughly the same time from London as the capital’s own airports. But, will the passenger travelling to from London to Manchester be bothered to use High Speed 2 if he or she has to get a train to Old Oak Common first and change, when the train goes direct from Euston? SNCF has been criticised over the choices of some of its TGV stations as essentially being in the middle of nowhere – for example, Gare TGV Haute-Picardie is nicknamed la gare des betteraves (“Beetroot Station”) as it was built basically in the middle of a beetroot field. The Shanghai Transrapid has also been criticised for not having a terminus in the centre of the city, instead stopping at the Longyang Road metro station, where you need to transfer to the Metro to continue your journey. The worry is that the economic situation will cause those responsible for paying the bills to look at the short term savings that can be made from such megaprojects, without considering the long term investment that may be needed in the future, which could potentially prove to be more expensive than the cost of the original project.

“Report says high-speed rail could cost just £6bn”

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2 Responses

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  1. Best cellulite cream said, on 2 June 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Well written.
    You have a nice blog.
    Thank you for the post.

  2. Claire said, on 4 June 2010 at 5:41 am

    I agree. While a low price of £6bn is good, it could end up being £6bn down the drain if the scheme fails. I’m sure there would be considerably fewer passengers if the route avoids city centres. People only want to travel to airport locations every now and then but city centres are visited daily by many people.


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