“If you’re a train fan hoping to take HS2 from Manchester to London, take care,” he said. The Times. You can simply “make your first voyage in the late 2040s. But don’t bet on it.”
Last week, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced that the second stage of HS2, from Birmingham to Crewe, would be delayed by at least two years and could not open until 2036.
The stage further, to Manchester, may not be opened until the 2040s. Trains will now also not run into central London until around 2040, as the government still needs to ensure Euston has an “affordable and affordable station design”: instead they will stop at Old Oak Common in west London. Harper blamed the rise in the cost of labor and building materials, but the problems run much deeper. HS2, it is becoming increasingly clear, is a ‘national embarrassment’.
The reason it has become “the biggest and most expensive white elephant in our history” is because the whole concept is “wrong”, Ross Clark said in Daily Mail.
Britain is a densely populated country where land and building costs are prohibitively high, and where major cities are already mostly within a few hours’ train journey of each other.
It is “ridiculous” to throw away tens of billions to shave a few minutes off the times when what we really need are minor improvements to intercity lines and better public transport in our cities. The way forward is clear, said Chris Blackhurst The Independent, is to complete the London to Birmingham section as work is well under way and scrap the rest. Part of the saved tens of billions could be spent on the development of cross-country routes in the north of England.
A bigger problem
HS2 is a fiasco, agreed Robert Colville The Sunday Times. “But what’s really alarming is that it’s so much more.” The government currently oversees 235 major infrastructure projects with a projected cost of £678 billion. Of these, 170 are marked in yellow: there “already exist significant problems”. A further 27 are in code red – “not reachable” – including the Oxford-Cambridge rail link.
The main reasons are Britain’s snail-like planning system, Whitehall’s incompetence in managing major projects and the Treasury’s reluctance to invest beyond a five-year spending window. Take care of all that and we can move. Meanwhile, even those projects that will be completed “will cost too much and come too late. Much like those HS2 trains that were delayed for a long time.’