'Speed up delivery to cut costs' says HS2 boss 19 Mar 2014
Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
- The best way of keeping costs down for the £50 billion UK High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project between London and Birmingham, and then from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds in Phase II, is to build it as quickly as possible.
- That is the message sent to the Government in a keynote speech by the recently appointed HS2 Chairman Sir David Higgins in Manchester on Monday as he delivered his long awaited review, HS2 Plus, of the mega project's direction and costs. Sir David also specifically mentioned tunnelling as one of the key challenges on the project, accounting as it does for more than 20% of the total alignment in Phase I and approximately 10% of Phase II.
- Pointing out that the existing rail network is close to reaching capacity, especially on the West Coast Main Line, and that costs associated with a "doing nothing" approach need to be factored into the equation, Sir David's report states that:
• The estimated £700 million half-a-mile rail connection between the HS2 hub at Euston and the international HS1
hub at St Pancras should be scrapped and the money spent elsewhere.
• A more comprehensive redevelopment of Euston Station should be undertaken that will truly stand the
test of time and whose beneficial effects will be felt for generations.
• The 43-mile high speed link between Birmingham and Crewe (which is already a regional crossroads for onward
travel to other cities), currently part of Phase II, should be accelerated and delivered six years early - by 2027
instead of the planned 2033. This would bring some of the benefits of high speed rail to the North of England
much more quickly reports Sir David.
• Coordinating consultations with existing rail operators and local government agencies in the North, where
connectivity rather than capacity is the major issue, can accelerate the process of getting the necessary
legislation through Parliament for Phase II as early as 2017. This, in turn, could see Phase II completed up to
three years earlier than planned, by 2030.
• Building HS2 will move freight and long distance passenger traffic off regional lines, thereby allowing more trains
to operate on existing commuter lines.
• Up to a third of the £50 budget for delivering HS2, one of the key reasons behind political and public opposition
to the scheme, is actually contingency, and that the delivered cost could be significantly less if inflationary costs
associated with delaying construction can be avoided.
UK rail passenger journeys continue to outstrip capacity
- Sir David said: "I believe High Speed 2 has the potential both to transform the North as a whole, and our nation, by rebalancing our economy, providing lasting jobs, and acting as a catalyst for change.
- "The upgrade of the West Coast Main Line (in 2008) simply revealed the true extent of the latent demand and growth nationally which over the past decade has averaged 5% per year even through the economic downturn. But if that defines the problem that HS2 is the answer to, it is also clear that any solution for the nation's transport infrastructure must stand the test of time in the same way that West Coast has for 170 years.
- "The Victorians, in a frenetic period of the nineteenth century, built a national rail network. As the first new main line railway to be built north of Watford in 100 years, High Speed 2 must satisfy this same criteria: to not only stand the test to time, but to be the right answer."
Sir David said that there were five key principles by which HS2 should be judged. It should:
• Stand the test of time;
• Be the right strategic answer;
• Be integrated with existing and future transport services;
• Maximise the value added to local and national economies; and,
• Be a catalyst for change both locally and nationally.
Earlier connection to Crewe will speed up benefits to the North
Higgins on cost
Regarding the cost and scheduling of the project, Sir David conceded that getting final parliamentary approval was unlikely to happen before next year's general election, but that this need not affect his proposals to get HS2 built as quickly as possible, and ahead of the existing timeline. He also said "the easy thing to do" would be to reduce the substantial amount of contingency funding so as to make the project appear cheaper, but that this would be "irresponsible" given the current uncertainty about when the necessary parliamentary approvals for the HS2 hybrid bill will be forthcoming. Figures revealed in the HS2 Plus report show that of the £24.4 billion budgeted for delivering the Phase 1 London-Birmingham section, £7.42 billion is in contingencies, allowing project managers to forecast the chances of a cost overrun at just one in 20.
- "The simple truth at the heart of this, as any, project is that there is a direct connection between certainty, time and cost," states Sir David in his report. "The more certainty there is about the timescale, the more possible it is to control cost through economies of scale. That is why getting clarity over the duration of the parliamentary process is key.
- "I recognise and applaud the leadership and courage all sides have shown to get us to this point - and that is why not getting Royal Assent before the election I do not think is a problem, but the more clarity parliament can provide, the more I can reduce contingency, and, therefore, the ultimate cost.
- "Euston, the Old Oak Common hub and tunnelling are the main challenges in Phase One - challenges, I believe, with the right approach we can meet. That is why I and my team, after eight weeks of exhaustive study, have concluded that the Phase One budget is enough."
- In response to Sir David's report the Government said it would remove the HS2-HS1 link from proposals contained in the Phase 1 High Speed Rail Bill that is currently being examined by Parliament. The Transport Minister, Patrick McLoughlin, also announced he would commission a joint report by HS2 and the national rail infrastructure agency, Network Rail, into the latest proposals to deliver a link to Crewe six years early earlier than planned, for inclusion as part of the Phase II consultation process.
The Higgins Report, HS2 Plus
Sir David Higgins speech in Manchester, 17 March 2014
Making a case for the UK High Speed 2 project - TunnelTalk, March 2014
HS2 Hybrid Bill launched in UK - TunnelTalk, November 2013
Making a business case for UK high speed rail - TunnelTalk, September 2013
New tunnel added to UK high speed rail scope - TunnelTalk, May 2013
New 9km tunnel for UK high speed rail - TunnelTalk, April 2013
UK High Speed Rail 2 needs 56km of tunnels - TunnelTalk, January 2013
UK appoints high speed rail Phase 2 consultants - TunnelTalk, January 2013
Extra tunnels seal UK high speed rail approval - TunnelTalk, January 2012
CH2M-Hill selected as HS2 Phase 1 development partner - TunnelTalk, January 2012
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