What can HS2 learn from its older brother?

By Ed Butcher, Head of Business Development, HS1 Ltd.

As I look on in awe at the massive endeavour HS2 embarks on, I cannot help but wonder what lessons HS1 might have learnt along the way, that could help HS2 deliver more when trains start rolling. On reflection, my key tip from what I have learnt from selling HS1 capacity, is be bolder at construction and future-proof for growth and opportunities.

HS1 and our partners has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.  From those now employed in new highly-skilled and highly-paid jobs created by French companies based in London to the thousands of families that can afford a home with a garden because of improved journey times and employment opportunities unlocked by our high-speed connection.

The route has become the transport backbone of the South East delivering £427m of economic benefit last year.  However, just ten years after opening we are already reaching capacity constraints on domestic high-speed services that might have been addressed by bolder thinking at the outset – most notably on the needs for domestic rolling stock.  With roughly 11% passenger growth a year, HS1 services have been wildly successful and helped change the economic growth trajectory of Kent.  Working with government and Southeastern, we are thankfully devising solutions that will ensure these rolling stock constraints are overcome.

Scope creep is the blight of all major infrastructure schemes, threatening viability, and fundability.  Therefore, I respect the discipline of keeping a tight lid on costs and a single-minded vision to make a project the scale of HS2 happen.  But as we have learnt, single-mindedness can come at the cost of future development and opportunities.

In the case of HS1, residents of Folkestone and Dover now live (more…)

High Speed Rail and Scotland

Our latest report High-Speed Rail and Scotland sets out how, through a mixture of new high speed lines and the upgrading of existing lines, joining the route to Scotland would enhance connectivity between the two nations by cutting travel time between London and Scotland to just over three hours; paving the Read more…

Submission to the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North Call for Evidence

Responding to the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Rail Needs Assessment, which will inform the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, we have called on the Government to implement a transformative rolling high speed rail programme across Britain. Investment in high speed rail infrastructure, through HS2 and beyond, will be essential to supporting resilience Read more…

HSRG response to My BEIS Inquiry

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee recently launched the ‘My BEIS Inquiry’, inviting stakeholders and the wider public to come forward with suggestions for issues the Committee should investigate over the course of this Parliament. The BEIS Committee is open to looking at issues from across the policy remit Read more…

Making the environmental case for HS2

Although the Coronavirus crisis has been dominating the headlines, environmental challenges have not gone away. The warm weather that is lifting spirits is also leading scientists to predict that 2020 will be the hottest year on record. Indeed, after the lockdown had already started, the DfT launched a radical consultation to inform its Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP). Calling for less car use and making public transport the first choice for daily travel, it represents a huge change from decades of previous policy.

It is important for HS2 now to rise to this opportunity. In her most recent report, Sadie Morgan, the chair of HS2’s independent design panel, called for more evidence and communication on how net zero is driving HS2 Ltd’s decision-making, calling for action from board level to those working on site. Professor Morgan also sits on the National Infrastructure Commission, which is undertaking a Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North. Clearly making the carbon case will be important for securing approval for Phase 2b and beyond.

The big challenge here is (more…)

High Speed Rail Group back government’s decision to “level up” Britain

No major project has ever been subjected to as much scrutiny as HS2, and this is right and proper given the public money being spent. But having had leading experts analyse HS2 for the last six months, the Government has rightly concluded that going ahead with the project is essential for their vision of ‘levelling up’ Britain and delivering a transformation of regional economies across the country.

With the decision taken, the industry’s focus must now be on delivering every penny of that public investment as efficiently as possible and wringing every benefit from the project. Now the debate on whether to build HS2 has been resolved, we can focus on (more…)