The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published a report commissioned by the government entitled Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North.
The report presents five different packages that sit within three different budgets for Government to consider.
Two of the packages that go beyond the baseline budget propose prioritising regional rail links to the detriment of the completion of the full HS2 Phase 2b route, which would take the high-speed line from Birmingham to Leeds via the East Midlands Hub.
Policymakers and rail experts in the region have expressed dismay at these proposals. The central issue of this argument is not about the figures – what can be bought for how much – but a feared underinvestment in the Midlands and the North to the detriment of both the people of the region and wider decarbonisation plans.
The report does not suggest any particular rail infrastructure programmes are not worthwhile per se – it merely offers different priorities depending on investment level. A further option would be to increase the amount of investment in order to fully deliver all of the proposed schemes so that the levelling up and green mobility agendas can be met in full.
The report notes that even the highest budget is insufficient to deliver all of the schemes proposed for the Midlands and the North. HS2 (incl. Phase 1 and 2a), Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Transpennine Route Upgrade, Midlands Engine Rail, as well as other upgrades such as decarbonisation and digital signalling efforts in the region would amount to 140–185 billion GBP in 2019/20 prices between now and 2045.
“Some of the options in this report are very concerning. Sacrificing parts of the high-speed network now would short-change millions of people across the Midlands and undermine our efforts to deliver a transport network fit for the 21st Century. HS2 must be delivered in its entirety, including its eastern leg from Birmingham to Leeds. To stall, scale down or delay now will cause irreparable economic damage to communities.”
She went on to express her disappointment over what she called the NIC’s moving goalposts:
“The report was commissioned to examine how HS2's Eastern Leg should be delivered, and how it could best be integrated with the wider network, not whether it should be delivered at all. The Midlands needs both HS2 and Midlands Engine Rail, we will now work with Government to make sure that happens.”
The High-Speed Rail Group recently published a report entitled HS2 Midlands Voices on why HS2’s Eastern Leg was central to the country’s levelling up agenda.
“This report is an insult to the people of the East Midlands, whose interests have once again been cast aside by Westminster; this time at the hands of the National Infrastructure Commission.
“Downgrading the Eastern Leg of HS2, as suggested in this report, is completely unacceptable, and will condemn a generation, not only to a second class railway, but to a second class future – one blighted by economic inequality and a lack of social mobility.”
This budget is described as “a fiscal envelope consistent with the rail spending in the Midlands and the North proposed in the National Infrastructure Assessment’s fiscal remit table”.
This budget “assumes the money available for rail spending is 25 percent higher than in the baseline scenario”.
The third budget “assumes the money available for rail spending is 50 percent higher than in the baseline scenario”.
The government will now consider these recommendations before publishing its Integrated Rail Plan in early 2021.
Please fill in the contact form opposite. A member of the team will be in touch shortly.