Phase 2 of HS2 announced, with no spur to Heathrow – though that could be added later

The government has announced details of the 2nd phase of High Speed 2, from Birmingham north to Leeds and to Manchester. The Chancellor,  George Osborne,  predicted the investment would become  “the engine of growth” in the north of England  and the Midlands. The government is due to finalise the precise route of HS2 next year in advance of legislation in 2015 – though it is likely to be delayed by a flood of judicial reviews and court actions over the legality of the consultation process. These could delay planning authorisation, and ultimately require routes to be heavily redrafted. Instead of work on the first phase, to Birmingham, starting in 2017, it could be delayed till 2022.  A planned spur taking HS2 to Heathrow has been put on hold until after the Davies review of Britain’s hub capacity is completed in 2015. The HS2 document says: “there would still be the opportunity to consult separately at a later point and include the Heathrow spur in legislation for Phase Two without any impact on the delivery time if that fits with the recommendations of the Commission.” Some people affected by the Heathrow spur will be eligible for the Exceptional Hardship Scheme.  Meanwhile, a useful piece by  Christian Wolmar sets out the main reasons by HS2 is not a wise plan, and not value for money, or even of environmental benefit.

The HS2 line is one big punt

The environmental and economic case for HS2 is losing clout, and yet the coalition ploughs on regardless

  •  by Christian Wolmar
    • The Guardian, 

HS2 high-speed rail plan

A Javelin train passes through Ashford on the HS1 rail link. Today it was announced that HS2 stations would be built in the centres of Leeds and Manchester. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Let battle commence. The controversy so far over the building of the new north-south high-speed railway line, HS2, has been led by well-heeled residents of the Chilterns who are seen as self-serving nimbys. Now that the northern sections of the route have been announced, the arguments will undoubtedly intensify and broaden out to examine the viability of a project that will cost at least £33bn and take 20 years to build.

Indeed, ministers face an uphill task in convincing many of their own supporters, let alone a sceptical public, of the project’s wider benefits.

Let’s take that price tag first. It was first announced when the broad outlines of the scheme were set out by the Labour government in its dying days and is therefore merely a guess with no detailed analysis to back it up. Indeed, the decision announced today to build stations in the centre of Leeds and Manchester, while definitely correct in terms of bringing benefits to those cities, will increase the cost enormously since, as our Victorian forebears found out, that last mile or so of rail line into urban areas is by far the most expensive.

Then there is the gradually weakening case for the line. When HS2 was first announced, it was presented as not only having enormous economic benefits but also as environmentally sustainable because of people transferring from road and air to rail.

In fact, subsequently the environmental case has all but collapsed since the effect of the line would be pretty much carbon neutral according to the study by HS2 Ltd, the government body charged with taking forward the scheme, if the impact of its construction were taken into account.

The environmental case was fatally weakened by the realisation that few high-speed train passengers would transfer from air. Again, HS2 Ltd found that most users would otherwise have taken conventional train services or simply not made the trip.

That left the business case as the principal justification for the scheme and this has steadily worsened over time as more details of the plan emerged.

The benefits are based largely on journey time reductions made by those travelling, but when opponents highlighted the fact that since people now can work on trains with their laptops and mobiles, these savings are largely illusory.

Today’s document promises “benefits” of just £2 for every £1 spent, a pretty weak ratio for such a massive scheme, especially as it is based on an unrealistic cost estimate and these imaginary savings.

That is why, in announcing the second stage, the government is now focusing on the regeneration benefits, presenting the line as a way of bridging the north-south divide.

However, the evidence that the new line will help reduce divisions between the regions is thin and, indeed, can point the other way, with London being the beneficiary. 

On Radio 4’s Today programme, Prof John Tomaney of the School of Planning at University College London, who has researched the effect of high-speed lines across the world, said: “The argument that high speed can reshape economic geography has been used in several countries around the world such as France, Spain, South Korea… but in practice there is very little evidence that building a high speed rail line heals north-south divides.”

In fact, Tomaneyn found there was strong evidence the other way, with the capital cities rather than the provincial towns, benefiting from the line.

In terms of employment, therefore, the argument in the government’s report that the line would create 100,000 jobs smacks of pure fantasy.

Ultimately, this whole scheme is a finger-in-the-air job. The Victorians built their railways on that basis, not really aware of the huge impact they would have or, indeed, whether they would ever pay for themselves. However, in the 19th century, the railways were a monopoly and it took almost a hundred years before the car and the lorry made inroads into the railways’ market.

Today we have the internet, broadband, mobile telephony and even the possibility of driverless cars let alone more mundane exogenous factors such as oil prices and planning policies that ultimately could all affect demand for rail travel.

The variables and what Donald Rumsfeld would call the unknown unknowns over a 20-year period are so great that in effect, despite all the pseudo scientific business case methodology, this is all one big punt by the politicians.

Yet, despite the lack of evidence to support the case for the line, it has now become part of the political consensus supported by all three main political parties rather like the idea in the noughties that Britain’s wealth would be sustained by allowing bankers free rein.

And we all know what happened next.




Information from Stop HS2  Hillingdon Against HS2

There is no information yet on the Heathrow Spur in phase 2 but here is the selection of routes engineers were considering as published in the Gazette:

Heathrow Spur Options

There is important information for anyone affected by the line, on the consultation and on getting compensation etc, at

Read their reaction here and the message from HS2 on this subject here.




Note on Heathrow spur – from the HS2 website   link 

As stated in January 2012, the Government believes that the HS2 network should link to Heathrow and its preferred option is for this to be built as part of Phase Two.  However, the Government has since established an independent Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, to recommend options for maintaining the country’s status as an international aviation hub.

The Government has therefore taken the decision to pause work on the spur to Heathrow until after 2015 when it expects the Airports Commission to publish its final report.  The proposals for the Heathrow spur and station are not planned to be part of the Phase Two consultation.  However, there would still be the opportunity to consult separately at a later point and include the Heathrow spur in legislation for Phase Two without any impact on the delivery time if that fits with the recommendations of the Commission.

To avoid severe disruption to the Phase One line after it has opened, however, the Government would consider carrying out the preparatory construction work needed to preserve the option of our preference serving Heathrow in the future. Including this work now could save significant disruption and cost at a later point.

Heathrow spur and Exceptional Hardship Scheme consultation

Alongside the Phase Two announcement, the Government has also launched a consultation on an Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Leeds, Manchester and the proposed Heathrow spur. The scheme aims to assist eligible residential and small business owner-occupiers whose property value may be affected by the initial preferred route options for these lines and who can demonstrate that they have an urgent need to sell.

Though the Heathrow spur is not part of the initial preferred route for Phase Two, the Government recognises the impact that the release of information about the recommended Heathrow route may have on property owners and therefore is willing to consider applications from property owners potentially affected by it under the proposed Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) for Phase Two.

The Minister of State for Transport will write to the small number of people whose land may be required or whose properties are at risk of demolition should the recommended Heathrow route be built, to explain the situation to them and, in respect of property owners, to confirm that the Phase Two EHS would be open to them. The Government will also write to people whose land or property is above a proposed tunnel on the Heathrow spur route to make them aware of it.

You can find more details on the Exceptional Hardship Scheme consultation for the proposed routes to Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow on our dedicated pages



Maria Eagle (Labour Shadow Transport Secretary) said:   “…we seem to have abandoned the spur to Heathrow, and I think that is a big concern. I think the whole point about high speed rail links is connectivity. Not to go to our hub airport is a real concern.”  link 


S2 Phase 2 farce – no Heathrow link

Posted on January 28, 2013

Today the government has announced Phase 2 of HS2 – an extension to Leeds and Manchester with other stops at some bizarre places, and with news many were not expecting – no Heathrow Link! This appears to be an attempt to give some credibility to The Davies Commission on airport expansion, which isn’t due to report until 2015.

Although this announcement is cautiously welcomed by our local communities who are already suffering blight due to the proposed Heathrow link, this leaves many questions unanswered.

Will local areas still be safeguarded and eligible for compensation?

Can construction of Phase 1 now include more, and better, mitigation options in the hope that no spur will ever be built?

Or will Phase 1 continue to be built as proposed in order to keep options open – causing uncertainty, blight, and suffering to residents and businesses whilst leaving them ineligible for compensation?

Will HS2 Ltd even bother to tell these people their plans have changed?

In many ways this news is no surprise to us. They removed all mention of Heathrow and HS2 from their new website 2 weeks ago, but failed to answer our questions about why, and Only last October at a community forum a HS2 Ltd engineer told us:

 “…the link to Heathrow might never happen. Connecting HS2 to Old Oak Common will allow passengers to reach Heathrow in 11 minutes. That was our original proposal”

Will people who support HS2 in the mistaken belief that HS2 will reduce domestic flights now realise HS2 is not about that. Nor is it about the environment, reducing carbon or true connectivity. Maybe it’s about airport expansion after all.

As for the Heathrow Link and for our community, it is still not certain if this is a permanent reprieve or a temporary one till 2015.

 Another major point of interest for Londoners today is the route through the city of Manchester is almost all in tunnel – meanwhile many Londoners still face HS2 ploughing through their gardens, schools, closing roads and so on, time for a fair deal for all!




Lawyers on the line: high-speed rail plan faces 10-year delay

Details unveiled of second phase of £32.7 billion project which government claims will create at least 100,000 jobs
28.1.2013 (Independent)
by James Cusick
Britain’s HS2 high-speed rail line could be delayed for a decade as a unified coalition of Conservative councils, MPs and environmental groups threaten disruptive legal action.

The new £33bn line is intended to kickstart the country’s economic recovery, but Department for Transport officials now fear work may not begin until 2022, amid a flood of court cases and judicial reviews, The Independent can disclose.

David Cameron today promised that HS2 would “spread the UK’s wealth” and give a “better balance to the UK economy” as the route of its Y-shaped second phase from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds was unveiled.

But the Government is now facing a concerted revolt as northern local authorities and backbench MPs affected by the proposed line unite with campaigners opposed to its first phase from London to Birmingham.

Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield and Tory deputy chairman, warned that Chancellor George Osborne, will now “see the strength of public opinion for himself”, with the line due to pass through his Tatton constituency in Cheshire. He added: “Every MP along the route will have people lobbying him. The people of Cheshire, like the people of Staffordshire, don’t hesitate to make their views known – and quite right too.”

The Conservative MP for North-West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today trumpeted the benefits of HS2, including increased North-South rail capacity, halving the current two hour eight minute journey time between and Manchester and London, the creation of 100,000 new jobs, and substantial investment boosts for major city centres,

Mr Cameron chaired a special gathering of the Cabinet in Leeds to discuss the plans, with ministers then fanning out across the region to make the case for the project.

Phase two running north from Birmingham along a total of 211 miles of new track will have stops and new stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton in the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds.

Sheffield will miss out on a city-centre station with a new link built instead at Meadowhall.  High-speed trains will also stop at Crewe’s existing station.

But a planned spur taking HS2 to Heathrow airport has been put on hold until after the Davies review of Britain’s hub airport and aviation policy is completed in 2015.

Constituencies bisected by the provisional route for the second phase are located in Cheshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, the East Midlands and Yorkshire.

The government is due to finalise the precise route of HS2 next year in advance of legislation in 2015. Construction of the first phase is planned to start in 2017,.

However if a flood of judicial reviews and court actions over the legality of the consultation process delay planning authorisation, and ultimately require routes to be heavily redrafted, Whitehall officials fear that work could be pushed back to 2022.

This could also delay the start of work on the northern extension, which is due to begin in the middle of the next decade ahead of a planned opening in 2032-33.

The High Court is already considering whether the first phase of the project, which will take  is legally flawed. The challenge was taken to the court by campaigners who accused the Government of failing to undertake a “strategic environmental assessment” or arrange an adequate consultation process.

The legal action focuses on the London-Birmingham route, however its outcome will have repercussions for the entire HS2 project.

Penny Gaines, chair of the StopHS2 pressure group, said she had already been contacted by constituents and local politicians in northern counties opposed to the provisional route of the second phase.

Ms Gaines said the gathering storm against HS2 was on course to produce “a strong alliance that included Conservative-run councils, MPs, activists from both the Green Party and UKIP, as well as a some Labour MPs and supporters who will take action to oppose this fundamentally flawed London-centric policy.”

Last week in the Commons, the Shadow Works and Pension Secretary, Liam Bryne, described  HS2 plans for his Birmingham city-centre constituency as likely “not to last 10 minutes in court.” He described plans to tie up land for a marshalling yard as  “a monstrous economic crime against the city.”

Councillors contacted by The Independent echoed Mr Byrne’s comments that the HS2 consultation process was flawed and would be legally challenged.

Councillor George Walton, a civil engineer and the mayor of Cheshire East, predicted there would be visible public outrage if the HS2 route was forced through “highly loved countryside”  lying south of Manchester.

Simon Jenkins, the chairman of the National Trust, said: “It is not a sensible project. If you’re going to spend £33 billion on transport in this country you would not spend it on this train.”

In Nottingham,  the local chair of the Campaign for Better Transport, David Thornhill, described the government’s plans as “environmentally catastrophic and wasteful”.

Professor Greg Marsden, director of the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University, said “It is hard to assess just what HS2 will achieve.”  He said critics could rightly round on the lack of precision and detail on what it would deliver for its “ big ticket price.”

The Chancellor,  George Osborne,  predicted the investment would become  “the engine of growth” in the north of England  and the Midlands.

Positive reaction  to the plans included the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, who said  HS2 held the potential to be “ a game-changer for the economy ”.

The British Chambers of Commerce, and the Institute of Directors, both welcomed the provisional route and the government’s commitment to new investment.







28.1.2013 (Airport World)

London Heathrow Airport left out of high speed rail network

Proposals for high speed rail links across the UK have left London Heathrow Airport off the map.

Manchester Airport will gain its own dedicated high-speed link – halving the journey time to London to just 68 minutes – however, the UK Government has left Heathrow out of its plans until a review into the future of airport expansion in the South East has been completed.

Critics of the Government’s delay on a Heathrow link said high-speed travel from Heathrow could free up slots currently occupied by domestic flights.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said decisions on how to connect Heathrow to HS2 would be made once the Airports Commission is completed in 2015.

By 2033, two branches to Manchester and Leeds are due to be fully open.

Corin Taylor, senior economic advisor at the Institute of Directors, said: “Air and rail need to be much better connected, and so it is very welcome to see the Y-network serving Manchester Airport directly.

“But by the same token it is disappointing to see a direct connection to Heathrow left out altogether.

“If the Airports Commission recommends that Heathrow should remain the UK’s main hub airport, then the first section of HS2 ought to run through Heathrow, not around it.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Maria Eagle, said: “Surely, the answer is not to delay decisions on HS2 but to speed them up on aviation?”




Heathrow link

This assumes that Heathrow will continue to be the major airport serving the South East: what if Stansted (now Boris’ preferred option) gets the expansion green light instead? Either way, failing to coordinate plans for the two different transport modes, one bringing businesses and tourists into the country, and the other taking them northwards, isn’t the smoothest way of closing the North/South divide, especially if high speed rail and London’s biggest airport for the future don’t even join up.