Savings from curtailing HS2 'not known'


HS2 Ltd does not yet know how much the decision to curtail the Eastern Leg of the new high-speed rail line will save taxpayers, its boss has told MPs.

Last November the Government’s long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) cut back proposals to build 120 miles of new track from the West Midlands to Leeds, opting instead for a 30-mile section to the East Midlands.

Appearing before a session of the Transport Select Committee in Leeds, the government-owned firm’s chief executive, Mark Thurston (pictured), was asked what the impact of the decision to build would be on the overall cost of the project.

He said: ‘We’ve got to work out what the Eastern Leg is going to cost. So, in light of the IRP announcement, we’re starting the discussions not with the Department on what it will mean to prepare the environmental statement and all the legislation to go into the House from the West Midlands to East Midlands Parkway. So that frankly is a piece of work we’ve yet to really put some boundaries on.’

He added: ‘But we obviously did some work previously on the full 2b section – all the way to Manchester and all the way to Leeds, so we’re disaggregating that now, working out what it would mean to put a funding ball game on the shorter Eastern Leg.’

Mr Thurston told MPs that HS2 Ltd would have to ‘resurrect’ work to plan the Eastern Leg, which the company had been asked to suspend well before the IRP confirmed that it would be cut back.

Committee chair Huw Merriman MP pointed out that the Eastern Leg of Phase 2b ‘looked a very expensive leg to build, compared to 2b on the Western side and there’s a feeling that the reason why this has been scaled back is because it would be so expensive'.

He added: 'But the figures don’t seem to exist as to what the new project is actually going to cost.'

On Wednesday HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson told the Yorkshire Post that he was ‘completely committed’ to taking HS2 trains – but not necessarily the line itself – to Leeds.

Ministers have committed to spending £100m on a study to look into the issue and Mr Stephenson said they will set out 'very soon’ when the study is due to take place.

He said: ‘I don’t want to rule out any option at this stage. We need to look at the existing plans. We need to look at plans for upgrades, but we also need to look at hybrid plans, where some of it will be new track and some of it will be upgraded.’

Mr Thurston told MPs that HS2 Ltd will contribute to this work.

Leeds station was due for a major expansion under the original plans for HS2

Pointing out that Leeds station is ‘currently running at 101% capacity’, Mr Merriman asked the HS2 boss for his initial thoughts on how high speed trains could be taken into the city.

Mr Thurston acknowledged that, ‘if you go back to the original scheme, there was quite a redevelopment of Leeds station when we brought the high speed trains on a dedicated route’, adding that ‘a not insignificant amount of work’ on this issue would have to take place over the next couple of years.

He said: ‘No-one should be under any illusion as to how complex that will be.’

Leeds City Region mayor Tracy Brabin told MPs that ministers should look at the capacity of Leeds station, which she described as being ‘at creaking point', irrespective of HS2, adding: ‘We can’t continue as we are.’

The IRP said ministers would carry out enhancements at Leeds station as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail plans to improve east-west links and ‘look at the most (sic) optimal solution for Leeds Station capacity’,

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