HS2 chief says trains could be run slower to cut costs
RUNNING slower and fewer trains on the new HS2 line are among the options available to keep the rail project within budget, its chief executive has said.
Phase 1 of the £56 billion highspeed rail link will open between London and Birmingham in 2026, before the railway is extended to Crewe, Manchester and Leeds.
HS2 trains are designed to operate at up to 225mph and also serve locations on the existing mainline network, such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
But at a meeting with MPS, HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said train speeds and frequency could be changed to help reduce cost.
Details of the meeting of the All-party Parliamentary Rail Group in November were revealed in a letter from Leader of the Commons
Andrea Leadsom to Mr Thurston in which she raised concerns about the “viability” of the project.
She wrote: “My parliamentary assistant, who attended on my behalf, tells me you informed the APPG that, ahead of the review of the business case for HS2 next year, a number of changes to the project may have to be considered in order to keep it within budget and on time – something my colleague the Secretary of State for Transport has made clear is imperative.”
Ms Leadsom, the MP for South Northamptonshire, an area through the proposed HS2 will run, said options discussed included possibly lowering train speeds by around 30mph, reducing train numbers from 18 to 14 per hour, and changing from a slab to a ballast track.
The MP wrote: “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 asked for an assurance the project could be delivered “on time and on budget without impacting the business case or affecting the basis upon which it was agreed by Parliament”.
In a written response to Ms Leadsom published on her website, Mr Thurston, who leads the firm responsible for developing and promoting the UK’S new high speed rail network, said it was ensuring the project was “on time and within budget”.
The HS2 rail link from London to Birmingham is due to open in 2026.