Will HS2 still happen?

Will the high speed rail project go ahead with opposition from the cabinet?

Express and Star

Half the Cabinet want to chuck 'fundamentally flawed' HS2

That was the message from Tory MPs who have urged Theresa May to ditch the £56 billion high speed rail line that will carve through 45 miles of Staffordshire countryside on its way from London to the north west.

Stone MP Sir Bill Cash led the calls in a Westminster Hall debate, where he said stopping the 'fundamentally flawed project' now was better than the alternative of 'continuing to throw money down a black hole'.

He launched a stinging attack on the line – which he said half the Cabinet 'want to chuck' – and said that stress caused by HS2 had made some people in his constituency 'physically ill'.

The proposed route slices Stone in half, and includes two viaducts and two tunnels.

HS2 has already cost more than £4bn, with costs expected to surge by at least £12bn over the next three years – money Sir Bill says would be better spent on the NHS or defence.

It comes as moves to bring an end to the project have gathered pace in recent weeks.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove along with other senior ministers are thought to be considering a public call for it to be cancelled, while Boris Johnson – a long time opponent of the line – warned this week that its cost on completion could almost double to more than £100bn.

Sir Bill said: "It has already cost £4bn – but there is no excuse for continuing to throw money down a black hole.

"The spending plans begin to spiral after 2018, £3bn in 2019, £4.2bn in 2020 and £4.8bn in 2021. If we are going to stop it, now would be a good time."

He slammed astronomical cost estimates – including more than £6bn for a seven mile stretch in London. "We have to get real," he said, pointing out that HS2 'don't appear to have any reliable costings themselves'.

"For the same price the UK could buy two new aircraft carriers or 10 state-of-the-art NHS hospitals, let alone local infrastructure and roads."

He said the Treasury had conceded that there was a 'high risk' of HS2 not delivering value for money, and referred to a recent poll which said that in the West Midlands less than a quarter of people think HS2 will benefit them.

Sir Bill, who has voted against HS2 each time it has passed through the Commons, said the project had caused 'an enormous amount of anxiety and stress to communities affected by it', stating that people in Stone had been made physically ill by it.

"It really is a catastrophic exercise in not only maladministration, but in addition to that the anxiety it has caused," he said.

"The fact is that the project has not yet left the station, and already the runaway costs are out of control.

"If this situation was not so serious, I would congratulate the HS2 executives for their role in constructing the most amazing gravy train that has ever been built in the UK, with a quarter of HS2 staff paid over £100,000 in the last year, and the chief executive taking home £600,000."

Sir Bill also called for an urgent review of HS2. "At present HS2 needs far more scrutiny than it is getting," he added.

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Will HS2 still happen?

By Jim Scott

It currently takes around two hours and eight minutes to get to London from Manchester by train and it will be even faster once High Speed 2 is fully launched. Currently still in development, tracks are yet to be laid despite diggers moving into Birmingham and Euston over the weekend to start preparation for the line. Journey times are expected to almost half as the Department for Transport revealed last year.

But as focus at Number 10 shifts towards HS2 and its £56 billion bill. Boris Johnson called for the project to be stopped on Monday as "other rail links should take priority", reports the Coventry Telegraph.

Former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson said: "There are projects we should have on transport in the north of the country that ought to take precedence over HS2. It's crazy how long it takes to get east-west across the country."

Arguing back, business secretary Greg Clark claimed "halting" HS2 would be "completely the wrong approach" and that it was "important" to continue to invest into the high-speed link, the Yorkshire Post reports.

The government has been keen to push ahead with HS2 since its days during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The promise of thousands of new jobs and meeting a "growing need for travel" has been enough to keep the project at the forefront of government investment, as Rail Technology Magazine reports.

Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling said: "HS2 will not only deliver the step change in rail travel that this country needs, it will also ensure that Britain is at the forefront of railway construction once again, supporting thousands of jobs and businesses and creating a first-class skills base that we can export around the world."

But building High Speed 2 will take time. It will take nearly two decades to complete and will be rolled-out in two phases. It is planned that Phase 1 will open for business in December 2026, linking London and Birmingham in under an hour (49 minutes). Plans for Phase 2 between Birmingham and Manchester to Leeds will not be finished until 2033.

But as Transport Network explains, HS2 has not had a smooth ride. The framework surrounding the legalities of HS2's Phase 2b, which will branch off towards smaller cities, has since been put on hold. In addition, Phase 2b's leader Paul Griffiths announced he will leave the project in December.

If the project is somehow cancelled as pressure against Theresa May grows. It could be a welcome relief for those whose homes along the planned route were earmarked for demolition. The Financial Times reports, the government was criticised for "slow" payments as only half the homeowners and business affected by planned demolition received payment as promised.

For now, HS2 is pressing on, despite no signs of any tracks being laid. Plots for train stations alike have been marked and construction work has already begun. Time will reveal whether opposition from Number 10 is enough to halt or even cancel the controversial project.

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First look at HS2's Euston tunnel portal site

The work, a major milestone for the project, will help pave the way for the arrival of the specialist tunnelling teams on site next year.

At Euston, HS2 will deliver 11 new platforms in two phases. This will more than double capacity at the station, as well as providing a new concourse and expanded Underground station, linked for the first time, to the nearby Euston Square tube station.

Twin 13 mile (21 kilometre) long tunnels, the biggest tunnelling project since Crossrail, will take the 360 km/h trains out of London via a new station at Old Oak Common linked to Crossrail. At the southern end, a tunnel portal will be built on the site of the carriage sheds, just south of Mornington Street Bridge.

The demolition, which took 9 months to complete was managed by HS2’s London enabling works contractor, CSJV working with demolitions contractor Keltbray. Up to 70 people were employed on site during the painstaking demolition of the sheds, which are adjacent to the west coast mainline.

Specialist teams used drones to survey the inside of the Victorian structure, before taking the fragile roof structure apart. In total, more than 7,000 glazing panels had to be removed from the 250 metre long building. The team then used a cranes to remove the 27 huge 50 metre long steel trusses which supported the ceiling.

Out of use since 2004, the sheds were built to house carriages and later used for Royal Mail trains. Surplus track, switches and points removed from the sheds have been donated to the Bluebell railway, a heritage line in Sussex.

Welcoming the progress, HS2’s London Programme Director, Rob Carr, said: "The demolition of the old carriage sheds marks an important step forward for the project, clearing the way for the start of construction works next year, and the delivery of one of the most exciting new stations on the HS2 route. I’d like to congratulate the team on a job well done and look forward to moving ahead to the next stage of the project."

Peter Jones, CSJV Programme Director, said: "The CSJV team, consisting of people employed from the local area and other experienced professionals, alongside Keltbray have worked carefully and efficiently to ensure that this structure has been demolished safely. It marks a great milestone in the construction of HS2 and shows the fantastic progress that we are making in Euston and across Area South."

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