In these days of austerity we are getting used to cutbacks and lack of imagination from Government. So the announcement that High Speed Rail 2 is being planned to come to Manchester was welcomed as an ambitious piece of investment.
The trouble is that already the £33 billion budget is already being derailed. The whole project is being hit by design rethinks, construction costs and, that old favourite, flawed IT systems. That’s an area where Government really could do with a spot of Pirate Party know how. Even before work has begun £16.8 million has been paid to Japanese corporate Fujitsu for HS2′s IT system which chief exec Alison Munro describes as having “teething problems”. The project is also facing legal challenges, following claims that the scheme had not been properly assessed.
Manchester Picadilly Richard Hoare under Creative Commons
One of the biggest studies in to high speed rail completed in other countries by the Research Institute of Applied Economics sets out a stark warning: “cost overruns would seem to be high in almost all instances; administrations should be fully aware that eventual construction costs might far outstrip initial expectations.”
So if we are to really gain any benefits the Government must be realistic about the costs, and not rely on failing corporates. Also, without a wider plan for innovation and growth this project could actually make things worse for Manchester’s economy. Investment provides jobs while the project is being carried out. But the evidence is that while regions have overall economic conditions which compare unfavourably with others an HS line can result in activity being drained away to the centre. This has been the case in France for example.
There are clear potential environmental benefits, but only if fares remain affordable, and competitive compared to air travel. Is it is the hikes in prices from Picadilly to Euston are squeezing travellers, and that is set to continue under the coalition.
The HS2 link can be a real chance for us- but only if the budget is realistic and it’s part of a wider plan to bridge the north / south divide. As things stand, quicker travel alone won’t bridge that gap.
Read more on Pirate Party Manchester environment and transport policy.
The Government says its full steam ahead as it were after 9 out of the 10 points legally challenged were rejected. However, the consultation in to compensation for those affected was deemed unlawful. This surely must have further cost implications.