HS2 Rail Project and Other Rail Developments

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2014 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
25 February 2014

Conference welcomes the Coalition Government’s planned increase in rail investment, but questions the value for money, rape of the environment and a 12 year wait for completion of the HS2 high speed rail line at this time of austerity when the project will cut just 45 minutes off a journey from Birmingham to London.

Conference notes that the expected final cost of the project will be £50 billion and that recent senior executive appointments at six figure salaries, have been made apparently to work on persuading the travelling business community of the need for HS2, such salaries being funded by the taxpayer. All this planned expenditure at a time when massive cuts are being made in the public sector with particular reference to the loss of jobs of our members in Passenger Transport Executive’s and the Environment Agency.

The project is planned to create 50,000 jobs in the West Midlands and yet gives no improved access to the metropolitan area other than Birmingham, and the permanence of these new jobs is questionable. The West Coast Mainline, it is said, is approaching capacity and will be detrimentally affected at a cost to the taxpayer as franchise payments to the exchequer will be reduced. Local commuter services will have to be increased to compensate at a time when government financial revenue support to local transport is reduced.

At a parliamentary debate in the House on January 9th Kelvin Hopkins MP, outlined the alternatives available to provide a fast route north linking London Marylebone and Paddington to Birmingham Snow Hill via use of the Chilterns Line and for freight the old Great Central Railway line. The re-opening of the Great Central Railway line as far as Manchester Piccadilly would cost £6billion and give a fast route into London. The present restriction of only having two tracks into Rugby and on to Birmingham New Street would be overcome by the electrification of the Nuneaton to Birmingham link line. Providing an alternative line will enable not only local passenger rail use to be maintained but developed with an opportunity to provide a re-built station at Castle Bromwich for additional access to the Airport and NEC as well as for JLR to utilise such link from their new manufactory site north of Wolverhampton to their other site in Castle Bromwich.

Conference further notes that the Government have suppressed a report on the Revised Business Case for HS2, an action which has only previously been taken when national security has been at risk, which can only be interpreted as them running scared in the face of all the opposition to the project in which 30 local authorities, affected by the planned route, are fighting to stop.

Conference considers, in the light of the Government’s planned investment in the electrification of many rail lines, that the opportunity is taken to revise the plans put forward by Network Rail in order to produce an alternative fast route north from London on existing tracks, reinstatement of the Great Central Railway and thus increase the usage of London Marylebone Station rather than the massive disruption planned at London Euston. All such alternative proposals to include the need for capacity to cope with freight rail journeys, the maintenance and development of local commuter lines.

Whilst the United Kingdom obviously needs at some stage a High Speed North/South Rail Line now is not the time to force through such an expensive project without looking at all aspects of rail travel and therefore Conference instructs the Service Group Executive:

i) To consider the merits of the case put forward by Unison-supported Kelvin Hopkins MP.

ii) Together with the Campaign for Better Transport, the TUC and other like-minded Transport Unions prepare a policy document on Improved Rail Investment for presentation to the 2015 Water, Environment and Transport Service Group Conference with a view to reference to the National Conference subject to such approval.

iii) To meet with the Labour Party spokesperson on rail matters: Lilian Greenwood MP to discuss rail infrastructure development and the value for money of HS2 and any knock-on rail service detriments arising from that project with particular reference to any loss of jobs.