HS2 rides political rapids

How safe is High Speed 2? Amid political turmoil, rumours of cost increases and a looming government spending review, once solid cross-party support looks vulnerable and those who oppose the £50 billion plus scheme sense an opportunity to kill it off.

As Modern Railways reported last month, HS2 Ltd Chief Executive Mark Thurston discussed possible options for reducing the cost of HS2 at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Rail Group on 20 November. These included cutting the top speed of trains from 360km/h to 320km/h and reducing train frequencies from the 18 per hour planned.

His comments triggered a response from Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire. ‘Can I ask how these changes – separately and cumulatively – would impact on the viability of the project?’ she wrote in a letter to the HS2 chief. ‘My constituents are naturally concerned that changes to the project could undermine the business case, negatively affect the benefit-cost ratio, and reduce value for taxpayers’ money.’ In his response, dated 4 January,

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