Bow Group questions Government’s handling of HS2

Energy & Transport
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Richard Mabey & Tony Lodge

This new report from the Bow Group Transport and Energy Committee, Winning the consensus on High Speed Rail: why all parties should now support the best route for HS2, argues that the availability of a cross-party consensus for a better and cheaper route for HS2 should be seized by the Government in their forthcoming announcement on HS2.The consensus would be to incorporate Heathrow into the HS2 line in the first stage of building. Should the Government fail to do this at the first stage of construction, it risks wasting £2.5bn by building in Heathrow to the HS2 line at a later date.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have u-turned on their original routes for HS2. Labour now supports the original Tory plan (dropped by the Government), which was proposed by the Bow Group in 2010.

The HS2 line must go directly via Heathrow and then follow existing transport corridors through the Chilterns. In her upcoming announcement on the future of the country’s largest infrastructure project, will Justine Greening revert to the Conservatives' original route or will she ignore the economic benefits of connecting to our major airport hub and the environmental benefits of protecting unspoilt land in the Chilterns?

The report finds that:

- The Government risks choosing the wrong route for Britain’s second high speed railway when it announces its decision on whether to proceed with HS2 in its current form early in 2012 It would be most regrettable if the Coalition sacrificed the cross-party consensus which Labour have offered (and which is traditionally necessary to ensure delivery of such major infrastructure projects which span many Parliaments), by continuing to support the route that Labour originally conceived and has now abandoned

- A consensus would be electorally popular as part of the Government’s wider long term strategy of ensuring the UK’s global economic competitiveness in a challenging economic landscape "The Bow Group Route", as suggested in 2010, offers an opportunity to safeguard the Chilterns, at a time where a forceful environmental argument is being made against the Government’s current route

- To be successful, the UK requires a nationally planned high speed rail (HSR) network, integrated with the classic railway and directly connecting the country’s major airports and city centres. France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and other major economies all demonstrate the success of this intermodal approach

- Heathrow Airport should be served by the direct HSR route as stated in the 2010 Conservative Manifesto. An integrated rail, road and airport interchange, bringing together HSR, Great Western Main Line and Crossrail services, follows global best practice and provides greater benefits at less cost than the current preferred Government proposal

- The Government must not just listen to the rail industry and should overcome the Department for Transport’s ‘silo’ thinking when deciding the right route for HSR

- British Rail was wrong in its choice of route in the 1980’s for the UK’s first high speed railway between London and the Channel Tunnel. A better route, developed by Ove Arup and Partners, promoted by Lord Heseltine and which attracted cross-party support, was chosen. The result, High Speed 1 (HS1), is recognised as successfully balancing transport and environmental objectives

- Failing to directly connect to Heathrow in the first phase of HSR, and relying instead on the possibility of a spur in a future phase, would represent folly in Britain’s ambition to develop a truly integrated transport policy. This, one of the Bow Group’s conclusions in, “The Right Track” published in January 2010, remains valid today. We estimate that incorporating Heathrow at a later date will cost the Taxpayer an additional £2.5bn.

- The Bow Group hopes that the Secretary of State, in her sensible decision to delay her announcement on HS2, will carefully consider the Bow Group’s conclusions in this Target Paper.

Richard Mabey, Research Secretary of the Bow Group, said:“Rarely in politics do you have u-turns by both Labour and the Conservatives. The two major parties have supported the Bow Group route for HS2, just at different times. The Bow Group route offers both environmental protection for the Chilterns and the economic benefits of a Heathrow high speed rail hub. On the Heathrow point, it is a question now of 'pay now or pay more later'. If the Government has to link Heathrow to the HS2 line at a later date, the Taxpayer could be footed with an additional £2.5bn bill. It is time for the Government to take the long-term view and win the consensus on high speed rail. “Read moreDownload the Target Paper by clicking on the link belowIn the News

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