HS2 chief says trains could be run slower to cut costs

The Herald - - NEWS - TOM PIL­GRIM

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.

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