Higgin Report - HS2 Plus
David Higgins believes HS2 must:
. 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 nationally and locally."
HS2 is certainly part of the right strategic answer to the question: How do we double the UK's debt pile and dramatically increase taxes to pay for it, or alternatively an answer to the question 'How do we help send the UK into default as quickly as possible?'
[UK economic collapse and default can't be caused by HS2 alone it needs a wider civil service more deeply embedded strategy which also involves doubling of expenditure on the Carrier programme, balooning expenditure on F-35B's which have little or no military value, subsiding Generation III nuclear energy and offshore windfarms at any cost, an ever continuing litany of failed IT projects, ever more expensive trident nuclear replacement funded on the sly etc. Everything to according to the civil service master plan then.]
HS2 won't be well integrated into existing transport services. There will be vast amounts of extra investment needed over and above that outlined in the Higgins report to make it work: Better transport connectivity in and out of Euston being the critical one. Connectivity between HS2 and HS1 being another. The list goes on and on.
This is a plan allowing the government to back out of HS2 phase 2 without the country just ending up with the new London underground line to Birmingham, for anywhere between £30 and £60 billion.
He is potentially right about HS2 being "a catalyst for change" though, although not in the way he means. Perhaps he should have said 'catalyst for revolutionary political change'.
As a country, we face a choice. On the one hand is the status quo: ever-increasing pressure on transport, the cost of housing and commercial property in London and the South East; and poor connectivity to and within the North. On the other are the strategic opportunities offered by HS2 and the potential it unlocks. An incremental approach can make only marginal improvements, often at the cost of unacceptable disruption to the existing network for decades to come - and we shouldn't kid ourselves otherwise."
The choice is not between HS2 and the status quo, the choice is between HS2 and having tens of billions of pounds still available to spend more wisely on other things, with better business cases and better long term rates of return. HS2 does not help connectivity between Lancashire and Yorkshire across the Pennines, or speed up travel between Liverpool and Manchester. (to ease pressure on the M62 and M56 etc)
David Higgins plans will mean rail travel into Euston will be disrupted on the existing classic lines for more than a decade, "we should not kid ourselves otherwise"
. There are many logistical ways of cost effectively reducing disruption to existing rail passengers in developing new rail capacity, but most of these have purposefully not been examined, as it would significantly undermine the case for HS2.
I have no confidence in the Sir David Higgins leadership, although I do have full confidence in his ability to get a big fat payoff whatever the future brings.