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HS2+ the challenge for the north – and for the south

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Greengauge 21 strongly welcomes the 5 principles Sir David Higgins is bringing to the HS2 project, as set out in his report. He recognises the wider economic development role HS2 has to fulfil and the need to think about whether designs will ‘stand the test of time’.

In a short space of time David Higgins has put an incisive spotlight on how HS2 should be delivered:

  • Save costs by getting on with it faster – taking HS2 north to Crewe in 2027, six years earlier than previously planned and accelerating the benefits for the Midlands, the North West and North Wales
  • Bring forward the Hybrid Bill for Phase 2 to 2017 by pulling together Network Rail’s strategic planning of the existing network with the planning of Phase 2. This will strengthen  the important consensus about how HS2 and improvements to the existing network link together
  • Look again at how Euston is configured and produce a better design with more ambitious redevelopment of the site. Greengauge 21 has long advocated the need to connect Crossrail into the West Coast corridor to support making a better Euston – which, as London’s fastest growing terminus – is becoming an urgent requirement. This happens to mean that the Chilterns will be served by an arm of Crossrail
  • Drop the ineffectual and half-baked proposal for linking HS1 and HS2 and look at better ways of delivering the benefits.

The North

David Higgins’ proposals for accelerating the benefits for the North mean that between them the Department for Transport, HS2 Ltd and Network Rail would need to:

  • Bring forward legislation to extend HS2 to a new hub station at Crewe, once DfT has had the opportunity to consider in full the consultation responses it received in January
  • Accelerate legislation and the funding programme for Phase 2
  • Integrate HS2 plans with better east west connectivity along the Liverpool – Manchester – Leeds – Hull axis
  • Establish an integrated strategic planning process for HS2 and the existing network, bringing the business and civic leaders of the north into the team.

But there is also a clear challenge from David Higgins for the North to work together again.

As David Begg who chaired the Northern Way Transport Compact said in 2011 when it was wound up:

“In the next few years critical decisions will be made on transport spending and strategy and policy that will potentially have a long lasting impact on the North. There’s now a new challenge for the North: to create a new way to work together to develop the evidence and make the case for the transport investment that is essential for the North’s economic future. The Compact has established the benefits to the North of working together on transport. I doubt it will be long before the North returns to it again.”

So 2014 is the time for the North to get its act together again, taking into account the Higgins Review and the position of the shadow chancellor, who continues to question the value for money of the second phase of HS2, and its budget. The Greengauge 21 team has extensive experience in leading the Northern Way work on transport and our research base is available to help this process.

The South

We understand why the current HS1-HS2 link plan has been dropped and note Sir David Higgins’ view that the HS2 paths could be better used – for instance ‘to provide a North Wales service’.

So in taking forward the study to compare and contrast better options, the link needs to be thought of as an opportunity  that HS2 creates: specifically to provide a convenient interchange (at Old Oak Common) onto a link from HS1.  This will strengthen the role of Old Oak Common and broaden the access to HS2 from the south, and increase the project benefits.

HS1 already has the start of the connection built, just north of its terminus at St Pancras International.  The full potential of HS1 cannot be realised unless a suitable operational link is provided westwards from this point because of capacity limitations at St Pancras.

Greengauge 21 has already developed clear plans for how this connection can be fashioned west of Old Oak Common, so that the unwanted pressure on HS2 capacity mentioned by David Higgins can be avoided – yet international connectivity provided.

We will make our work in this area available to HS2 Ltd.

Given the position reached in the Davies Commission, the question of HS2 links to Heathrow also needs to be brought back into discussion and resolved. Access to what will be – following the Davies Commission’s interim report of December 2013 – either a two or a three runway Heathrow, can be provided by HS2, ensuring this major international hub airport serves the whole of Britain and not just London.