THE NATIONAL Infrastructure Commission has launched a call for evidence on how to transform rail across the Midlands and the North. After the call for evidence closes on 29 May the Commission will publish an independent assessment of how Phase 2b of HS2 can best be integrated with wider transport plans in the North and the Midlands, in line with the Government’s High Speed North ambitions set out when it gave the green signal to HS2.
In its announcement, the Government backed the construction of Phases One and 2a of HS2, linking London to Birmingham and Crewe. However, it said Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds) would be placed on hold until an integrated rail plan for the Midlands and North was identified. This is planned to include more effective phasing of and integration with Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands Rail Hub and other proposed investments, and the NIC’s assessment will also examine how best to deliver rail connectivity to Scotland.
The NIC says it has identified two key areas of analysis – connectivity and capacity, with a focus on faster journeys and the potential for more trains to run, especially on crowded commuter routes. The 11 questions it is posing as part of the call for evidence seek views about the investments which should feature, how these would work together and which should have the highest priority as well as any supporting policies needed to deliver them. It also seeks evidence about the impact of the investments, including environmental, and how costs and benefits would be distributed.
The assessment will not examine issues relating to Phases One and 2a of HS2, as these are set to go ahead as currently planned, although the Infrastructure and Projects Authority is to undertake a separate review on lessons learned from cost overruns.