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PM strips HS2 Ltd of Euston role

12 February 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

Boris Johnson (Image: Dreamstime/Katatonia82)

Prime minister Boris Johnson has given his backing to the HS2 project despite predictions it could cost more than £100bn, but has taken away some responsibilities from HS2 Ltd, the company set up to oversee its delivery.

The government will “redefine” HS2 Ltd’s role so that it can focus on phases 1 and 2a of the scheme, while new, separate organisations will be put in charge of the construction work at the London terminus at Euston, and phase 2b running from the West Midlands to the North.

Johnson said he wanted to draw a line under “past failures of leadership, transparency and cost control”.

The government confirmed it was drawing up an integrated plan for rail in the North, informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission. The work will look at the most effective sequencing of investments in the north and also promised to have a “focus on ensuring that lessons are learned from phase 1 of HS2 to drive down costs”.

Meanwhile, there will be a dedicated minister with oversight and accountability for HS2, and the government will also look at options for a new delivery body of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Oakervee review

The move comes after consideration of Douglas Oakervee’s independent review of HS2, which has now been published in full, and was accompanied by a commitment to invest in local transport links, including £5bn to improve bus and cycle links outside London, as well as upgrades to local roads.

Johnson said: “I am drawing a clear line under the mismanagement of the past – HS2 must be delivered more efficiently and cost-effectively so that communities feel its benefits more quickly, particularly those in the North.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps added: “I’ve been clear that we needed all the facts to decide the way forward with HS2. Fully informed by a comprehensive and detailed scrutiny of all the facts, now is the time to drive HS2 forward, alongside a ‘High Speed North’ plan to give the North and Midlands the capacity and connectivity it vitally needs.

“We are also clear that the project must reform and improve, with clearer accountability and transparency to ensure its incredible benefits are matched by a tight control of costs.”

Reaction

Welcoming the announcement, Construction Leadership Council co-chair Andy Mitchell said: “I welcome the decision to give HS2 the green light.  The construction sector now has a golden opportunity to demonstrate how far we have come in developing new skills and innovative techniques to deliver a high-performing high-speed railway. I am confident that our industry partners will respond positively to the challenge.”

Mark Cowlard, UK CEO at Arcadis added: “HS2 is a once in a generation project.  Along with a renewed commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail it will radically transform the UK’s economic geography, improve connectivity, create new jobs and spread opportunities in communities right across the country which will be felt for decades to come. 

“Arcadis is pleased that the independent review by Douglas Oakervee and the Government have come to the same conclusions, that the benefits of HS2 vastly outweigh the concerns, and those concerns can be rightly addressed through the planning and development process.  Our sector can now move forward with confidence and deliver a railway that benefits all and showcases the best of British engineering and innovation.”

Meanwhile, Bill McElroy, head of industry strategy – programme advisory called for the use of more offsite manufacturing in HS2. He said: “HS2 also presents an opportunity for the UK infrastructure industry to reinvent itself and shine at its brightest. This is a state of the art infrastructure programme that will provide a means for high speed, low carbon travel and support the UK’s transition to a net-zero carbon economy. To deliver this the industry needs to organise itself and step up to the mark. Great project management is fundamental to its success, so too is improving productivity through technology and off site manufacturing, and finding ways to attract the very best talent. If we can transform our industry, we can transform the UK.”

Comments

There still needs to be a direct link from Old Oak Common to Heathrow (it need not be via high speed train) - a level of transport integration where the UK is light years behind other countries.

HS2 comes in to Euston - the Heathrow trains all come in to Paddington: the time that is saved in high speed travel on HS2 is wasted by having to make the tube connection from Euston to Paddington, then travel back out of London.

Michael Watts, 14 February 2020

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