High speed rail line may cut costs by running slower trains
HS2 could be forced to run fewer trains at slower speeds to keep the high speed rail project within budget, the company’s chief executive has said.
The government-backed development has faced criticism for “misleading MPs” with price estimates that were hundreds of millions of pounds too low.
It has now emerged that the leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, questioned the viability of the project at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary rail group in November, prompting HS2 to suggest a number of potential cost-cutting measures.
In a letter following the meeting, Leadsom told HS2 Ltd’s chief executive, Mark Thurston, that she was aware he had conceded that “a number of changes to the project may have to be considered in order to keep it within budget and on time”.
The options discussed included potentially lowering train speeds of up to 225mph by about 30mph, changing from a slab to a ballast track and reducing the number of trains per hour from 18 to 14, according to Leadsom, the MP for South Northamptonshire, through which the HS2 route will pass.
“My constituents are naturally concerned that changes to the project could undermine the business case, negatively affect the benefit-cost ratio, and reduce the value for taxpayers’ money,” she said.
Responding, Thurston said HS2 was in the process of ensuring the project was “on time and within budget”. He said Leadsom had “correctly” referred to a number of options to reduce costs that he set out when asked at the parliamentary group’s meeting.
“However, I was also clear that HS2 Ltd is working to the scope and budget of the project which the government has set, and for which detailed debate in parliament has taken place,” he said in a written response.
Phase 1 of the £56bn link is due to open between London and Birmingham in December 2026 before the railway is extended to Crewe, Manchester and Leeds. A spokesman for HS2 Ltd declined further comment.