Friday, July 19, 2013

Money Down the Train


Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire

The public consultation on phase two of the HS2 high speed rail line began this week, amid signs that the cross-party consensus in favour of the project may be starting to break down. Lord Mandelson called it “an expensive mistake”, and Tom Harris MP, rail minister in the Labour government that initiated the scheme, admitted the original cost calculations were done “on the back of a fag packet”.

There seems to be a new development in the HS2 saga almost every other day. In recent weeks the estimated cost has risen from £32 billion to £53 billion, Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has called the government's business case “farcical”, and HS2 Ltd, the government-owned company charged with building the new railway, has apparently looked again at a previously rejected alternative proposal for the Euston terminal which would avoid the need to demolish hundreds of homes in the Regent’s Park Estate (below). If accepted, it would be the third design for the station in as many months, and a major rethink very likely to impact on the newly revised cost estimate.

Outside Westminster, apart from some politicians and business leaders in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, there is massive opposition to the scheme from action groups and local authorities along the whole of the route from Euston, through the West Midlands, and northwards. If the political consensus does crumble, the scheme will probably stagger on until the next election, prolonging the blight and uncertainty faced by residents and businesses close to the new line – but what happens then is anybody's guess. 


Several blocks on Camden Council's Regent's Park Estate and one of the three towers on Ampthill Square Estate are threatened with demolition

More pictures here
New views of Regent's Park Estate here 
Inside Housing feature here