Monday, February 17, 2020

News: PM hints at "High Speed North" as HS2 under review


Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that HS2 will go ahead, but added that there will be a pause to review how both HS2 and NPR would work as a fully integrated railway for the North.

Rothbiz reported last year that an independently-led government review will use all existing evidence on the project to consider its benefits and impacts, affordability and efficiency, deliverability and scope, its phasing, including its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR - the East-West links across the North).

There has been much opposition to the HS2 scheme from within Rotherham since a 2b route realignment was recommended to Government in 2016.

In a statement to Parliament the PM set out that after careful consideration of the independent Oakervee review, the decision has been taken to proceed with HS2.

The Prime Minister told Parliament that he is committed to Phase 2b of the project, extending high-speed rail from the West Midlands to the North. In order to work out how best to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and Phase 2b more effectively, government will draw up an integrated plan for rail in the North, informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission.

This will work to identify the most effective sequencing of all relevant investments in the north, and look at how the two schemes can work together alongside wider investment in transport for the North and Midlands. It will also have a focus on ensuring that lessons are learned from Phase 1 of HS2 to drive down costs.

Recognising that better East-West connections are a priority for local leaders, the Government will look at how best to accelerate the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, including looking at options for a new delivery body.


In his statement to the house, Johnson said: "We will start treating HS2, north of Birmingham, Northern Powerhouse Rail and other local rail improvements as part of one integrated masterplan, High Speed North.

"Because something has to change. Those who deny this, who say we should simply build 2B and Northern Powerhouse Rail according to the plans currently on the table, are effectively condemning the North to get nothing for 20 years.

"And that would be intolerable. So as we draw up this plan we are not asking whether phase 2B is not to be. That is not the question, Mr Speaker. The question is how we can bring a transport revolution to the north sooner.

"Together, this revolution in local and national transport has the potential to be truly transformative for the entire country."

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: "HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are crucial to level up the economy and provide vital upgrades to our creaking Victorian infrastructure. We must ensure they benefit South Yorkshire and unlock prosperity and better connectivity right across our region.

"The decision to review Phase 2b, which includes the route through South Yorkshire, gives us the opportunity to look again at the impact of HS2 on communities in our region. The Government needs to ensure this review is undertaken thoroughly but speedily so we can minimise disruption. I'm acutely aware that some of our local residents now face further uncertainty and are unable to plan for the future. I will be meeting with the Secretary of State today to discuss these matters in more detail."

The Government has previously been urged to include a HS2 parkway station in South Yorkshire and a Northern loop out of Sheffield Midland, which at present is only set to be served by a spur.

Studies have also identified potential new stations in Rotherham and in the Dearne Valley on a proposed NPR line.

Rotherham Council's previous stance was a preference for the South Yorkshire HS2 station to be at Meadowhall on a through route to Leeds. The new route is seen as having negative impacts, such as adverse environmental impacts and the impact during construction, outweighing the perceived benefits of the scheme.

In its response to the Oakervee review, the council said it was aiming to cast as much doubt as it can in the Government's mind about its HS2 phase 2b plan.

Images: Boris Johnson / twitter


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