Will HS2 get UK government’s green light?

The release of the latest HS2 collaboration on freight capacity for the UK network comes at the same time as intense speculation that the project in the UK will survive a review and get approval this week from the government. All that on the back of a ministerial public statement at the weekend.

The UK’s HS2 project, to build a new high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham, with extensions to Manchester and Leeds to follow, has received a boost from government sources, ahead of the publication of a controversial report into the viability of the massive infrastructure undertaking.

TV Interview

In a national TV interview, broadcast on Sunday, one government minister said his belief was that the project would get full approval, when the findings of the so-called Oakervee review are put before the British parliament, possibly later this week.

Brexit minister Stephen Barclay expressed his expectation that HS2 would be approved

Steven Barclay, the Brexit Minister, who will see his own department wound up shortly, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that his ‘gut feeling’ was that the HS2 will go ahead. When asked for a simple binary answer, his response was an emphatic yes.

Capacity for freight

Earlier in the interview, the minister had emphasised the capacity benefits of HS2. Supporters and the project team themselves have been at pains to put forward the capacity benefits of the new line, and in particular they have lately put freight to the forefront of their rationale.

Today (27 January) HS2 launched their latest collaboration with the freight industry, by publishing a new video, made in cooperation with DB Cargo.

Video interview

The ninety-second video features an interview with Richard Sears, the senior communications manager at DB Cargo UK. He says that his company runs hundreds of trains every week, and that there are benefits from making more paths available to the freight industry. “The rail network here in the UK is still very congested”, says Sears. “With increased capacity that will be generated thought HS2, when our customers come to us and say they want to move more freight within the UK, we can say yes, we can accommodate that”.

Steel supplies at the DB Cargo UK facility in Wolverhampton will benefit from HS2 says Richard Sears

There is considerable concern over the cost of HS2. The Some government sources, such as the National Audit Office have said it is impossible to “estimate with certainty what the final cost could be”, and a rival report, published by the former vice-chair of the official review, put the figure at over 100 billion GPP (117 billion Euros).

Other projects needed too

However, as we reported last week in RailFreight.com, there is a growing consensus that HS2 is not the only project needed to revitalise the UK economy, and the price is simply the cost of rectifying the wholesale closures of the rail network in the 1960s and 1970s.

Other parts of the industry have called for the project to go ahead. John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight added his weight to the call, with a direct appeal to government to back the line on the grounds of new capacity for freight. “The demand is there”, added Sears. “The greater the capacity that HS2 can deliver on the existing network, would be a huge economic opportunity”. It is over now to the UK parliament, and an anticipated announcement from the prime minister shortly.

Author: Simon Walton

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