HS2 hybrid bill launched in UK 26 Nov 2013
Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
- The 400-page London-Birmingham High Speed Rail hybrid bill, which once passed into law will grant the necessary powers to begin construction of the 224km long first phase of the eventual 560km long route, has been submitted to the UK Parliament along with an accompanying 50,000-page Environmental Impact Statement.
High Speed 2 Phase 1 and 2
- The bill is effectively a large-scale planning application that will enable the necessary compulsory purchase and land acquisition necessary for securing the chosen alignment. Its first reading in the UK House of Commons on Monday (25 September 2013) marks the beginning of an official process of political approval for the estimated £19.4 billion first phase of a 400km/h high speed line between London Euston Station and Birmingham.
- Since preliminary details of the alignment were first released by HS2 Ltd/UK Department of Transport in 2011, a number of tunnels have been added to project scope to mitigate environmental concerns and to simplify construction in northwest London. Nearly 40km of the Phase 1 alignment will be in twin-running TBM-driven tunnels, with a further 8km in shallower "green" tunnels just below the surface, for a total underground alignment of 21.4%.
- According to a costing document attached to the hybrid bill, tunnel and viaduct construction will account for £6.13 billion of the £19.4 billion estimated cost of Phase 1 (Q2 2011 prices).
- The bill will now be debated in the UK House Commons, where opposition to the scheme's cost and likely benefits are likely to be registered. Leaders of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government coalition favour construction, with leaders of the Opposition Labour Party likely also to support the general principles of developing a high speed rail network. But there is strong individual opposition among ordinary Members of Parliament to the scheme among all of the major political parties, and overcoming this will be a major challenge. This is clearly recognised by the new chairman of HS2 Ltd, the government-appointed body responsible for delivering the project.
Sir David Higgins, chairman HS2 Ltd
In September (2013) the Government announced the former chief of Network Rail, Sir David Higgins, would be appointed as the new chairman of HS2 Ltd, tasked with navigating HS2 project through the crucial hybrid bill stage.
Sir David Higgins
- His role is to find ways to bring down escalating costs through close liaison with the construction industry, it was announced. Higgins is widely credited as being the driving force for getting the troubled London Olympics back on track and back on budget at a time when political divisions and public condemnation were threatening to derail delivery of the project.
Reflecting on HS2, and his role in delivering it, Higgins said:
"The real challenge on this job is it is a substantial budget and a massive infrastructure project - four times that of the London Olympics - so we have to make the case to the public. We have to be open and transparent and make the case that it is value for money.
- "The case to make is, what is the alternative? Because if we don't do this it's patching up for the next 50 years an ageing Victorian railway system which is operating at a capacity way over what it was designed for.
- "While we do have the safest railway in Europe we also have the oldest one. The growth rates here far outstrip any other utilities needed on any other railway in Europe. It's essential for economic growth in this country to have a proper modern railway. The thought we could be living with this railway in another 30-40 years time is a very difficult thing for me to comprehend.
- "HS2 will be a massive catalyst to regeneration. Not doing HS2 and expecting the Northern cities to be more connected and therefore have greater economic growth is unrealistic.
- "HS2 is two things. On the bottom end it's all about capacity. At the bottom end of the west coast there is no train capacity left and it's only going to get worse. Every morning 4,000 people who arrive at Euston are standing and that's going to get worse and worse as time goes on. In the north, meanwhile, it's about connectivity; there are 12 big cities and HS2 is the essential core in connecting them.
- "In 2006 there wasn't a single bit of positive media coverage for the Olympics (a year after he took over in 2005). It was all about 'this cannot be done, the budget is ridiculous, we will be embarrassed about it'. It took about two years for the first green shoots to take hold before people began to say 'well maybe this is going to happen'.
- "I met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week and I said to him there is only one thing I need on this project and that is that this has to be bipartisan. You can't have this as a political football; it's too crucial for the nation and therefore, as I did in the Olympics, where I had the right to brief Opposition and Government, both at a local and national level, I've asked for the same on this project.
- "One thing I don't understand, in a world where time is money, is why HS2 needs to take so long. We have some of the world's best designers and best contractors. We should challenge them, plan properly, and then challenge them to do it quicker. Something I have learned is that pre-planning and engagement with the industries involved, as well as with the public, is absolutely essential for a project of this type and complexity."
- "There is only one thing I need on this project and that is that it has to be bipartisan," said Sir David Higgins, who successfully delivered the London Olympics. "You can't have this as a political football; it's too crucial for the nation."
- Following a further eight week public consultation process, during which specific objections can be raised in the form of 'petitions', a detailed scrutiny of the route and its impacts will be carried out by a special Parliamentary committee of MPs, with the assistance of lawyers and other transport experts. Both Crossrail and High Speed 1 (London-Channel Tunnel) went through the same hybrid bill process before construction could start.
- Opposition from members of the public who live along the proposed route is strong, and there are questions about the escalation in the project's cost from £33 billion (for both Phase 1 and the Birmingham-Liverpool and Birmingham-Manchester-Leeds second phase) to nearly £43 billion, as well as the cost-benefit ratios to be gained.
- UK Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin said: "We're not building this to be used for five years or 10 years, this railway will be being used in 100 years. Sometimes you can't get that on a benefit-cost ratio analysis. When you look at such ratios for the Jubilee Line in London it didn't stack up; but if it hadn't been built the Canary Wharf development would not have been built."
- "We've got to hold our nerve and see off the protesters, but we've got to answer their concerns. We've got to show why this investment is a sound investment."
Making a business case for UK high speed rail - TunnelTalk, September 2013
UK High Speed 2 needs 56km of twin tunnels - TunnelTalk, January 2013
New 9km tunnel for UK HS2 - TunnelTalk, April 2013
Extra tunnels seal UK high speed rail approval - TunnelTalk, January 2012
UK awards high speed rail design contracts - TunnelTalk, April 2012
Add your comment
- Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. You share in the wider tunnelling community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language professional.