The Government have today published “The Strategic Case for HS2”, an updated economic case and other supporting documents, including a technical report into possible alternatives to HS2 by Atkins and Network Rail
I regard the publication of these documents as an important step in my preparations for laying the hybrid Bill before Parliament later this year and I consider this to be an opportune time to explain the benefits of HS2 clearly and comprehensively.
Good quality transport is at the heart of our economic success and the decisions we take now about transport investment will determine our country’s economic future.
The case for the new line rests on the step change in capacity and connectivity it will provide.
The new north-south railway is a long-term solution to a long-term problem. Without HS2, the west coast, east coast and midland main lines are likely to be overwhelmed. With it, we will transform intercity travel. There will also be benefits for regional and commuter services. It will increase the amount of freight that can be carried by rail.
HS2 will provide a very significant increase in capacity on the rail network. It will deliver a 14 trains per hour capability in phase 1, rising to 18 trains an hour in phase 2— transforming intercity rail services.
Significant journey time improvements will be possible, such as reducing the journey time between London and Manchester from two hours eight minutes to one hour eight minutes. HS2 will connect eight of our 10 largest cities and bring two thirds of the population within two hours of London.
And HS2 could provide space for at least an extra 20 west coast main line freight paths, with each extra freight train typically taking 40 lorries off our roads; easing congestion and reducing carbon emissions.
These transport improvements will help support economic growth and make a major contribution towards rebalancing the economy.
Subject to parliamentary approval, the new railway will be built in two phases. It will be fully integrated with the rest of the railway network. It will bring benefits to places with stations on the new railway including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London; to stations on the classic network like Liverpool, Darlington and Newcastle which will receive high-speed services; and to other places on the existing mainlines like Milton Keynes, Rugby and Peterborough, which will have better services from released capacity on the existing main lines.
Analysis by Atkins and Network Rail has considered whether we could meet the capacity challenge in other ways—for example through upgrades to the current railway. But HS2 emerges as the only option that provides not only the capacity and the connectivity this country needs, but is also deliverable, minimises disruption to existing rail services and allows us to leap ahead of demand and reshape the economic geography of the country.
The updated economic case scrutinises again the costs and benefits of HS2. The new analysis shows that the Y network delivers a good return on investment, with a standard cost benefit ratio of 2.3.
HS2 has been allocated a funding envelope of £42.6 billion in the 2015 spending review and will not exceed that allocation. It includes £14.4 billion of contingency, which I am determined to bear down on and I have put in place rigorous controls, including a target price for HS2.
We are continuing to work with the construction and supply industry and with local communities to ensure that this unprecedented investment in a new north-south line will deliver the best possible return to the British economy, and be built at the lowest possible cost and with the lowest possible environmental impact.
I am laying copies of these documents in the Libraries of both Houses.