This week, the HS2 Hybrid Bill reached report stage in the House of Lords. It will now to go third reading on 31st January.
There was much discussion about the costs of the project in the initial stages, and surprisingly the first such amendment came from a supporter of HS2. Lord Bradshaw, speaking for the Liberal Democrats, and indeed in favour of HS2, had submitted an amendment asking for Old Oak Common to be used as a temporary London terminus whilst further cost studies were conducted, because, as Lord Berkley would later point out, over a third of the entire costs for HS2 Phase 1 are associated with the section between Old Oak Common and Euston and updated cost modelling puts the overall cost over double where the official forecast is.
“A question of financial propriety is involved as regards whether the Government should get involved in the scheme as it now stands with such flimsy cost estimates. We further believe that if economies are not made now in the part of high-speed rail that goes from London to Birmingham, there will not be enough money in the funding envelope to extend HS2 north of Birmingham. As that is the principal purpose of the line, it seems rather odd that we would not manage to complete the line as planned.”
Berkley went further, stating that Network Rails’ updated method of costings have not been used with HS2, and if they were, the costs of Phase 1 would be over double where they currently stand, basically almost the entire current forecast of the cost of all phases combined:
“We organised costings with Michael Byng, a quantity surveyor who has written the textbook of costings for Network Rail; that is two years old now, so I hope that it will implement it soon, because there are problems with costs on the classic network. He concluded that the cost of HS2 at Euston, with the tunnel as far as Old Oak Common, was £8.25 billion. That did not fit well, in my mind, with the total committed expenditure limits from the Government for the whole of phase 1 of £24 billion, because it is about one-third of it for eight kilometres out of 200. So I asked the same gentlemen, using the same methodology and rates, to cost the whole of phase 1, and it came out at about £54 billion, which is actually double the Government’s estimate.”
Just to show how totally bonkers those supporting HS2 are, Baroness O’Cathain said of the idea of using Old Oak Common, where let’s not forget HS2 Ltd are planning to build a station, as a temporary terminus:
“Having been to Old Oak Common on one of our visits, I would not like to be lumbered with getting from Old Oak Common to anywhere in London; it just seems crazy……. Coming from Birmingham to Old Oak Common? I ask: who would really want to?”
Various other Lords dismissed the idea of financial propriety as ‘delaying tactics’, and the amendment was defeated 80 to 261.
The only other amendment that actually went to a vote was brought by Baroness Randerson, and called for specific targets regarding lorry movements in Camden, that no more than 50% of excavated spoil and demolition material could be moved by road and no more than 25% of concreting aggregates, with the remainder in each case being carried by rail. She pointed to Crossrail, which has managed to transport 80% of material this way
This idea was dismissed by Labour spokesman Lord Rosser, who said:
“We see no useful purpose to be served by attempting to set fixed targets. It would be little more than plucking aspirational figures out of the air”.
This was quite odd, as at Grand Committee stage, the granddaddy of HS2 Lord Adonis had more or less admitted this is what has happened with the HS2 passenger forecasts, and that the proposed service patterns could not be trusted, saying:
“It is not clear to me why my noble friend thinks that publishing a draft timetable nine years before the line opens is a good idea. This would build up a whole set of debates, expectations and controversies long before the likely pattern of demand and usage is clear.”
The HS2 Hybrid Bill will now go to third reading on 31st January, where it is expected far more amendments will be pushed to the vote.