HS2 will be afflicted by the same delays and inefficiencies as the rest of the rail network unless its design is radically altered, a top railways expert has warned.
Professor Rod Smith, the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Transport, said linking the new high speed lines to the existing network would be a “disaster” that would “ruin reliability and punctuality”.
He said H2S could be delivered for just over half the predicted price of around £55 billion if it was built and operated as a fully separate network, as is the case with high speed rail in Japan.
The Imperial College academic, who supports the project in principle, pointed out that some of the train operators on the parts of the existing rail network that HS2 trains would use have extremely poor punctuality records.
“The existing plan really is a dog’s dinner that’s built with considerably more expense than it needs and will produce less favourable results,” he said.
“It’s just crazy to continue with the plan. It should be reviewed urgently.”
“There are major cost savings to do with a closed system and the idea of bringing high speed rail into the city centres is non-sensible. They don’t do that in Japan.”
Professor Smith said concerns over punctuality was the reason London Euston is planning to build 13 extra platforms, as station controllers will not know precisely when trains will arrive so will have to have platforms spare.
By contrast the Tokyo high speed terminus only has five.
Earlier this week the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that the 2026 target date for opening phase one between London and the West Midlands is “at risk”.
The Whitehall spending watchdog claimed the project is under financial strain and could be delayed by a year.
The DfT has also called on the firm to revisit its schedule in a bid to increase its confidence of completing phase one on time from 60% to 80% without increasing costs.
But Transport Minister Robert Goodwill insisted that HS2 is “on track” despite the NAO warning that the £55.7 billion railway is facing financial pressures.
He said: “HS2 is on track and the National Audit Office agrees. We have strong cross party support and are on schedule to gain the powers needed to start building HS2, which the NAO acknowledges is a significant achievement.
“We are on course to start construction next year and complete the scheme on time and budget.”
Work on the first phase of the project is due to start next year and reach Birmingham in 2027.
Subsequent phases will link the route with Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.