Failing to build HS2 in full could add up to £13bn to the cost of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and undermine the business case for the regional rail project, the North's sub-national transport body (STB) has warned.
As reported on Transport Network, Transport for the North (TfN) has welcomed new plans for the integration of the Western Leg of HS2 Phase 2b with the proposed NPR network but called on ministers to bring forward equivalent plans for the Eastern Leg.
The publication of the Design Refinement Consultation (DRC) covering only the Western Leg has heightened concerns that the Eastern Leg may be scrapped, with STB Midlands Connect echoing TfN’s comments.
Former transport secretary Lord Adonis wrote on Twitter: ‘This supposedly technical paper just released by the Transport Department is big news: the government is only now going ahead with the Manchester leg of HS2 and is delaying indefinitely the eastern leg to Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham & Derby.’
Speaking to Transport Network, Tim Wood, TfN's Northern Powerhouse Rail director (pictured), reiterated the organisation’s support for plans for the Western Leg but said: ‘The North can’t wait at the back of the queue.’
He stressed that the business case for NPR assumes that the Western and Eastern legs of Phase 2b are built in full.
Mr Wood said: ‘Another factor I think is really important is that we rely on 80km of HS2 infrastructure being built because that connects into our network and gives us the functionality of Northern Powerhouse Rail connecting up the great city regions and the key economic centres of the North of England.’
Asked whether this applied to both legs of HS2 Phase 2b, he said: ‘It’s across the network. It’s also the touchpoints where NPR touches the HS2 network, so particularly touchpoints to go across from HS2 to Manchester and across to Liverpool and also from there the Manchester Piccadilly station and the construction of that as well as the Manchester Airport station.’
Mr Wood suggested that failure to build the full HS2 line would have a significant impact on the viability of NPR.
He said: ‘We would have to reappraise all the information and look at the economic case and that would add approximately £13bn onto the price of Northern Powerhouse Rail, so we would expect HS2 will be building all that work in full. That is our assumed costings to replace that work that HS2 would be doing.’
Mr Wood stressed that the plans for the Western Leg of HS2 and NPR, which were drawn up by TfN under his direction, were an example of collaboration, with the high speed rail line having a five-year head start on the regional rail project’s mixture of new and upgraded track.
He said: ‘This has proved that through collaboration we’ve been able to bring Northern Powerhouse Rail right up to speed, particularly around the touchpoints and a couple of the stations; to integrate the work that we have done to make sure that we have the functionality with the Northern Powerhouse network. There’s been a lot of work in the background, developing these proposals, very much in a joint way.’
A map of the full HS2 project, including the Phase 2b Eastern leg to Leeds and east of Leeds
He confirmed that the equivalent work ‘has been done’ for the linkages on the Eastern Leg.
However when asked why HS2 Ltd did not publishing proposals based on it, he replied: ‘I think you’d have to refer that question to HS2 Ltd and the Department. What we have done at Northern Powerhouse Rail, is make sure that the system as it is proposed works and delivers the conditional outputs that we were set.’
He added: ‘But we do assume in our business case that he HS2 Eastern Leg is completed, as much as we assume that the Transpennine upgrade is completed in full and fully electrified.’
Ministers have said that the integration of the Eastern Leg of HS2 will follow publication of an integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands.
Despite his concerns, Mr Wood was extremely positive about the process that had led to the publication of the DRC.
‘We worked in collaboration with the Department for Transport, HS2 and Network Rail. There’s a real key piece within Northern Powerhouse Rail – co-clienting with the Department for Transport, which has really driven a collaborative approach to business case work and starting to develop the network,' he said.
‘Take for instance both Manchester Airport and Piccadilly Station, the number of platforms you will see has increased because that now accommodates the building of Norther Powerhouse Rail. Today has been an extremely significant day for us - the recognition of the infrastructure that we will need, and that is now contained within the DRC.
He added: ‘I think the other key piece is the Crewe North connection. That’s really important for us and for our connectivity to continue up to the north of England, so the HS2 line will cut in just south of Wigan and into the West Coast Main Line and then carry on as HS2 services to be serving the great cities of Preston and Carlisle and up to Scotland. So that’s really important that the Crewe North connection actually went in.
‘It’s also important to get our connection across to Liverpool for our proposed new lines in that direction.’
He concluded: ‘Although this has been the second DRC, it was really important that the rest of the Western leg infrastructure was consulted on, which allowed NPR on the Western side of the North or England to really get into the space.
‘We’re really welcoming this; it’s a really progressive move and we can’t wait any longer in the North. We have to get action here to level up the UK economy. It’s one of the key fundamental building blocks for that.’