Predictably, yesterday’s story (for that’s what it was) in the Sunday Times has caused the usual predictable outcry from Hs2 antis that the project should be cancelled. Equally predictably, non of them have bothered looking at the timeline of events (including a general election) that demonstrate this was never going to happen.
Not only that, but no-one’s bothered looking at the latest IPA Annual Report on Major Projects for 2017-18. Because if they had they’d have realised how Gilligan’s story focussing as it does on an outdated report really is today’s chip paper.
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves what the DCA ratings system is.
The IPA report looks at several rail projects, not just HS2. These are;
Crossrail (moved from Green to Amber)
Thameslink (moved from Green to Amber)
Midland Mainline programme (remains on Amber)
Hs2 (remains on Amber/Red)
Great Western route modernisation (remains on Amber/Red)
North of England programme (remains on Amber/Red)
East-West rail (remains on Amber/Red)
Southwest route capacity (remains on Amber/Red)
Rail franchising programme (moves from Amber to Amber/Red)
Intercity Express Programme (moves from Amber to Red)
Eh? Hold on, the IEP programme, which is delivering new Hitachi built trains every week to GWR and soon to LNER ‘appears to be ‘unachievable’? Tell that to the passengers who’re riding on those trains!
Of course, sensible, pragmatic people will take the IPA report for what it is, a guide, not gospel. But that’s not the anti Hs2 mob, obviously! The truth is, Hs2 has remained at Amber/Red now for several years. Looking back at the programme’s progress and timescale I doubt it will move from that for several more years (despite what then Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin once claimed) especially as there’s still the final Phase 2b Hybrid Bill to make its way through Parliament. Then there’s the construction contracts to be let for phases 2a and 2b. What is interesting is that despite all the claims from those opposing Hs2, the project’s never moved into the red category – which (if all the scaremongering over increased costs was true) you’d have expected it to.
Meanwhile, progress on Hs2 continues. On a project of such a vast scale there’s bound to be bumps along the road, but what’s clear is that those bumps are being ironed out. The next couple of years will be exciting times for the project. Away from all the hype and hyperbole, work continues every day, preparing the ground for the main civils work on phase 1 to start (just have a look around the Euston area to see that). In Parliament the Phase 2a Hybrid Bill Committee are making steady progress. There’s a complete absence of anti Hs2 groups gumming up proceedings this time as Hs2aa has folded and StopHs2 don’t even get a look-in. The Phase 2a bill is expected to get Royal Assent by the end of 2019, then we move on to the final Phase 2b bill. The project still maintains cross-party support, so there’s nothing to stop Hs2. There’s no national anti Hs2 campaign anymore, so barring a major political earthquake, the project’s unstoppable.