UK’s major new rail project should be cheaper and slower: House of Lords

LONDON, May 16 (Xinhua) — The planned High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project in the United Kingdom should aim at a lower speed and terminate outside the heart of London to save “out-of-control” costs, a House of Lords report said on Thursday.

The report, published by the Economic Affairs Committee, reckoned the final cost of the project could significantly exceed the original budget of 56 billion British pounds (71.67 billion U.S. dollars) — which means the second phase of HS2 might not be built.

The first phase, due to be completed by 2026, will link London and Birmingham, and the railway will eventually extend to Manchester and Leeds in northern England by 2033. The railway network is being designed to initially operate at a speed of 360 kilometers per hour.

“If costs overrun on the first phase of the project, there could be insufficient funding for the rest of the new railway. The northern sections of HS2 must not be sacrificed to make up for overspending on the railway’s southern sections,” said Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, chair of the Economic Affairs Committee.

The report reiterated the committee’s 2015 recommendation that the government should properly assess the savings that could be made by lowering the speed of the trains and terminating at Old Oak Common in west London rather than at Euston Station, one of the city’s main rail terminals, which would require expensive tunneling.

The report made a strong argument for giving priority to increasing connections between cities in northern England rather than improving north-south links, which are already good.

“Commuter services in the north of England are badly overcrowded and reliant on ageing trains… The north is being short-changed by the government’s present plans, especially as construction on HS2 is starting in the south. Any overcrowding relief from HS2 will mainly benefit London commuters,” Lord Drumlean said.

He said the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), a separate scheme connecting towns and cities in the region, should be integrated with the plans for the northern section of HS2, and funding for the project should be ringfenced.

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