Delivery of High Speed 2 has been thrown into doubt following an announcement this morning that Government has commissioned an independent review into whether the scheme should proceed.
The review will be led by experienced project manager Douglas Oakervee, supported by Lord Berkeley and a panel of transport specialists. It will consider the benefits and impacts of the scheme, its affordability and phasing including how it links with Northern Powerhouse Rail.
A final report will be considered by the Transport Secretary, Prime Minister and Chancellor this autumn and will inform the Government’s decisions for the next steps for the project.
News of the review was met with dismay by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association. “Cancelling or delaying the project, which is well under way, will leave a sad legacy of what world class infrastructure could have been and damage industry confidence for the foreseeable future,” said CECA director Marie-Claude Hemming.
Former National Infrastructure Commission chair Lord Adonis remarked on Twitter: “So much for (Boris) Johnson’s commitment to infrastructure and the north. The first thing he does is to delay and possibly undermine the first strategic investment in the north in decades.”
News of High Speed 2’s review comes on the same day as 16 schemes to improve roads across northern England are set out by Transport for the North, which has submitted a bid for £700M from the National Roads Fund.
Within the bid to the Department for Transport are 12 schemes on the Major Road Network and four Large Local Major projects that could be on site or completed by 2025, it says. To view a list of the projects announced today, see below.
TfN’s major roads director Peter Molyneux said: “Years of underinvestment in road networks across the north has resulted in slow journey times and poor reliability. Funding these economically important roads, as part of a collaborative and multi-modal proposal based on clear evidence of need and expected benefits, should be done now.”
Alongside public transport improvements and investment in decarbonisation, this will enable roads to play a sustainable role in our transport network for the future, he added.
The £700M funding bid come after TfN called on the Government for a ‘Northern Budget’ last week. It asked for commitment to a £7Bn infrastructure pipeline as well as for the full £39Bn east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail network to be built by 2040. In addition it urged £1Bn to go to TfN over the next three years for project development.
TfN chief executive Barry White said: “We now need a Northern Budget to make both the shovel ready projects and the ambitious longer term programmes like Northern Powerhouse Rail a reality.”
But business group Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison expressed concern that the proposed Northern Budget does not go far enough. “It is not as far as the £120Bn Northern Powerhouse MPs and Peers have called for by 2050,” he said.
“As the National Infrastructure Assessment recommended, within the target of 1.2% of GDP spend on infrastructure the UK can also afford both HS2 and better transport within city regions like North East, Leeds and Bradford with their neighbouring towns. There seems to be little or no reference to this in TfN’s priorities.”
Meanwhile, research by think tank IPPR North indicates that the north of England is set to receive just a third of London’s per head investment in transport infrastructure under Government’s current spending plans.
Analysis of the most recent edition of the National Infrastructure & Construction Pipeline shows that planned transport spending in the capital accounts for £3636 per person, compared to £1247 in the north.
The figures do not include Northern Powerhouse Rail or recent overspend on Crossrail, which are not included in the pipeline. The report also found that the transport spending gap between London and the north grew over the last decade.
IPPR North senior research fellow Luke Raikes said: “These figures show that the Prime Minister must urgently follow through on his promises to invest in northern transport infrastructure and devolve power to the north’s leaders.
“We are not suggesting that anything should be taken away from London, but it is not a solution for the country to keep reacting to London’s congestion problems,” he added.
Luke recommended that the second phase of High Speed 2 begin in the north so that Northern Powerhouse Rail can be accelerated using its infrastructure, and called for Transport for the North to receive powers similar to Transport Scotland, with a budget to invest in its own infrastructure.
But, when asked how confident he feels that the Government will deliver on its promises, Luke remains sceptical. “We have seen promises broken before,” he emphasised.
A Government spokesman said: “As the Prime Minister recently set out, this Government is committed to boosting the north by levelling up our regions through Northern Powerhouse Rail, giving local leaders greater powers and investing £3.6Bn in towns across England.
“We’re already investing over £13Bn in improving transport in the north – more than any Government in history – and will set out our plans to build on this in due course.”
Major Road Network projects for which funding bids have been announced today are:
- A595 Improvement Scheme (Bothel) – Cumbria County Council
- A1079 Improvement Scheme – East Riding Council
- A582 Dualling – Lancashire County Council
- Blyth Relief Road – North of Tyne Combined Authority / North East Combined Authority
- Durham Northern Relief Road – North of Tyne Combined Authority / North East Combined Authority
- Sunderland Transport Corridor – North of Tyne Combined Authority / North East Combined Authority
- Tyne Bridge and Central Motorway – North of Tyne Combined Authority / North East Combined Authority
- Shalesmoor Gateway – Sheffield City Region
- A689 Corridor Improvements – Tees Valley Combined Authority
- A34 Cheadle – Greater Manchester Combined Authority
- A650 Tong Street – West Yorkshire Combined Authority
- Dawsons Corner Junction and Stanningley Bypass – West Yorkshire Combined Authority
The Large Local Major schemes are:
- Kendal Northern Access Route – Cumbria County Council
- The Rocket Junction – Liverpool City Council
- Wigan East-West – Greater Manchester Combined Authority
- A1237 Dualling (Phase 2) – City of York Council