SUSTAINING THE MOMENTUM ON UK HIGH SPEED RAIL

4TH NOVEMBER 2010

OVERVIEW

Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Confirmed Keynote Speaker

The Government has announced its preference for the High Speed route north of Birmingham , as the “Y” option of two separate corridors – one direct to Manchester , connecting to the West Coast Main Line and the other via the East Midlands and South Yorkshire before connecting to the East Coast Main Line north of Leeds.

A major public consultation on the strategic roll out of a HSR network and on its preferred route for the first leg between London and Birmingham will begin early in 2011, followed by a Hybrid Bill to be laid before Parliament to enable works to start in 2015.

While progress is clearly being sustained on the UK’s High Speed agenda there still remain key areas for major debate.

The original plans published in March 2010 focussed on a London to Birmingham line without a direct Heathrow-link.  The arrival of the new government brought with it a request that both Lord Mawhinney and HS2 both re-visit the case for serving Heathrow.  The Mawhinney report has since corroborated the previous government’s decision to go for Old Oak Common as the best option for a London terminal in the immediate future.  The Government is now formulating its own strategy on the back of these findings.

There has also been a growing body of public opposition to the proposed routing through the Chilterns – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and South Warwickshire, with the best way to minimise environmental impact and deliver environmental mitigation still under major discussion.   

With much of the money coming from the taxpayer, the debate also continues as to whether constructing a brand new network can be justified rather than running new high speed services on  an upgraded version of the existing classic rail network.

Similarly, a discussion continues on whether a route as far as Scotland is genuinely viable on value for money grounds?

Issues for debate include:

  • Will the Government re-configure the route to include Heathrow?
  • Is a route to Scotland really viable?
  • Newly built nigh speed network versus upgrade of existing classic network?
  • Are the environmental costs worth the end results?
  • How can we keep construction costs down?
  • How can the private sector get involved? 

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Tim O'Toole CBE

Former CEO, FirstGroup