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Report says Northern HS2 should have been prioritised

A report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has said that Northern HS2 rail should have priority over the Southern Line.

The committee has criticised HS2 for failing to answer questions raised in their 2015 report and has questioned the value of prioritising the South over the Northern HS2 rail link. The report says that Northern Powerhouse Rail would be a better investment and should have been prioritised over HS2 phase one connecting London to Birmingham.

The report encourages combining the Northern HS2 line with Northern Powerhouse Rail to allow investment to be better used. They also question the cost of HS2 and claim that it is unknown how much the cost will be when the high-speed rail is complete and whether the Northern line will ever be built if costs overrun on phase one.

Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said: “Commuter services in the north of England are badly overcrowded and reliant on ageing trains. Rail connections between northern cities are poor.”

“As the Committee suggested in its 2015 report, rail infrastructure in the north should be the Government’s priority for investment, rather than improving north-south links which are already good. 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.”

In response to the report a Department for Transport spokesperson said: “By 2020, the Government will have invested a record £13bn in transport across the North, and we have a clear plan for linking the Midlands and the North through HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – the full benefits of which can only be delivered on the back of HS2. This is not either/ or, we are clear we want both.”

“HS2 will deliver additional rail capacity, significantly improve connections and provide opportunities for economic growth – with around £92bn in benefits – for people and businesses across the North.”

The report recommends a new business appraisal case for HS2, combining Northern Powerhouse and HS2 Phase 2b, bringing funding forward where possible, analysing the savings in lowering the speed of the train, a new report into HS2 infrastructure, and using Old Oak Common as the terminus for Birmingham to London line instead of Euston. Construction of Phase One is already underway with new stations in Birmingham and London undergoing preparation work.

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