Why the Government now needs to restore trust in rail policy-making
The Railway Industry Association has issued its response to the scrapping of HS2 Phase 2.
Following the news that HS2 Phase 2 between Birmingham and Manchester is to be scrapped, Darren Caplan, Railway Industry Association Chief Executive responded:
“Many of the Railway Industry Association’s members will be extremely disappointed by the Government’s proposal announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to scrap HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester. This follows the previous scrapping of the Eastern Leg to Leeds, the Golborne Link to enable High Speed trains to get to and from Scotland, and the ‘pausing’ of the Old Oak Common to Euston stretch.
“The Government cites cost as its main reason for scrapping Phase 2, yet it should be remembered that this was the Government’s own scheme, built to its own specifications, and that the chopping and changing of the scope and timing of the project – adding considerably cost and delay – was entirely of the Government’s own making. Every time the scheme is rescoped it increases the cost.
“Scrapping HS2 Phase 2 is simply unnecessary and squanders the full benefits of Phase 1. The Government can work with metro mayors, the railway industry, rail suppliers, and other stakeholders, to agree a cost-effective way forward, including encouraging private investment to take pressure off the public purse.
“This nuclear option is defeatist and sends a terrible signal to potential overseas investors that the UK simply cannot deliver large national transport infrastructure schemes. For companies with existing contracts, the implications of the Prime Minister’s proposal to release £6.5bn from the Euston site and create a development zone are particularly unclear. Already, multinational railway businesses will be making plans to rationalise their workforces and investments in a way that will be detrimental to the country’s rail supply sector specifically and UK plc more widely. This also blows a hole in the Government’s levelling-up and decarbonisation agendas – none of the replacement regional schemes referred to will have the same impact of building the HS2 in full.
“Going forward, the Government needs to safeguard the full HS2 route for future generations, and pass the relevant Bill in the King’s Speech next month. It needs to work to rebuild trust with the railway industry, for example providing reassurance that the £36bn investment it mentioned in regional transport projects announced at Conservative Party Conference, such as Midlands Rail Hub and the electrification of the North Wales mainline, will go ahead following the short-notice cancellations of HS2’s Phase 2, Eastern Leg, Golborne Link, and the Old Oak Common to Euston ‘pausing’. And the Government needs to redouble its efforts to deliver certainty in rail by pushing on with rail reform, publishing the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline for the first time in four years, setting out a plan for rolling stock, including a pipeline for new and refurbished trains, explaining its plans to decarbonise UK rail, including a rolling programme of electrification and fleet orders of hydrogen and battery trains, and give more freedom to bring forward private investment.
“Whilst we in the railway industry are of course concerned at the announcement made by the Prime Minister, we now need to ensure the HS2 Phase 2 scheme can be taken on by future generations, that there will be rebuilt trust in Government rail announcements given the recent history, and provide more certainty generally, to enable rail businesses to plan their workforces and resources in the weeks and months ahead.”
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