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Is HS2 under threat from Brexit?

Suggestions have been made that HS2 is under threat of being cancelled, following the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

“The priority for the Government at this time will not be big sexy projects such as HS2,” said Lord Berkeley (Labour peer and Chairman of the Rail Freight Group).

This was a sentiment echoed by Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure at KPMG, who said: “Getting attention on important strategic infrastructure decisions, I fear, has just got significantly harder.”

Before the Referendum, in June, Prime Minister David Cameron addressed Yorkshire residents at the Yorkshire Post’s offices in Leeds, and warned of uncertainty for the project if Britain left the EU.

“If we stay in all our plans are fully intact and that includes HS2, and what we have said about HS3, and the overall rail investment programme,” he said.

“If we come out, of course I’m sure we will want to try and maintain these important investments. But when you hear nine out of ten economists, the Bank of England, the Treasury, the IMF and now the National Institute all saying our economy will be smaller and will generate less tax revenue, obviously that does threaten potentially some public spending programmes.”

With uncertainty over the future leadership of the Conservative party and whether the new leader will be supportive of HS2 (former London Mayor Boris Johnson has not been entirely supportive of the project), critics of the project are hopeful.

However, HS2 spokesman Ben Ruse told RAIL: “We are continuing to make HS2 a reality. It is business as usual and could very well be that HS2 is need now more than ever.”

  • For more on Brexit, read RAIL 804, published on July 6. 

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  • BigTone - 01/07/2016 12:05

    Why will Brexit make any difference? The only thing holding the show up is the fact that Britain is currently in limbo and will be until Lisbon Treaty Article 50 is activated.

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    • Silent Majority - 02/07/2016 16:54

      The reason is the ££££ , namely as a country we do not have (or ever did have!)£56 billion to spend on the rail equivalent of Concorde. Yes there is a need for additional capacity , however HS2 in its current form does not address that. 1. Who will use it? HS2 demand was based on fares being the same.....HS1 are 15% higher, so run THOSE numbers and see what you get. 2. So called benefits - a large chunk is based on people not working on trains....I was on a train last week with over 60% of business people working 3. It will create jobs and growth. Take Birmingham , what will happen is it will turn it into a London commuter town. It will SUCK OUT talent and money from Birmingham. Then Council has been crowing about HSBC choosing Birmingham as their UK headquarters because of HS2.........Not according to HSBC , who I wrote to. They already have a lot of staff there and the Midland Bank started there. HS2 is desperate and arrogant beyond belief . A poor man who worked for the Lords Committee and had to deal with the fall out from their indifferent "engagement" strategy threw himself off his balcony last week . The suggested reason is he was so depressed having to deal with the flack from the public. We have seen recently what happens to arrogant people who think things are sown up. HS2 just dismisses any reasonable criticism even from respected organisations . They claimed that the budget was fine and of course it could be built because of the contingency..........................so how come there is a hole of over £200 million! HS2 needs to be stopped in its tracks and a proper review as to what is REALLY required

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      • BigTone - 02/07/2016 19:41

        But after Brexit, we will have more money to spend. No membership fees, no fines for "bad accounting", no more demands for bailouts. Anyway, whats with this "Silent Majority" nonsense, you are just you. Again like all the critiques, you conveniently forget the other half of the project. However if Beeching and the LMR hadn't done their thing, the Great Central would still be here and HS2 would not be needed. In fact, the GC had plenty of scope to be upgraded.

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        • Silent Majority - 02/07/2016 20:11

          If you would like to read what I have written you will note that I am in favour of a new line, just not HS2 in its current form , so I think we agree in that sense.. I would advocate a slower line speed and also 4 track in places , to allow freight the extra capacity it needs and also commuter services. The service from the Chilterns to Birmingham is dire. Decent high speed commuter lines alongside a high speed line would allow more communities to benefit As far as connection to the north is concerned, I think that should be built first or at the same time, but again at a slower speed . As far as more money after Brexit . Farage made a statement saying £350 would go to the NHS...after the "reality" , he now claims it was a mistake. I do not know the answer as to the amount of money we will have and no does anyone else. I do know building HS2 in its current form is wrong and should be stopped.

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          • BigTone - 02/07/2016 23:12

            Actually, that was Boris, the silly boy forgot the word "gross"

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      • FrankH - 03/07/2016 20:28

        ".HS1 are 15% higher". There is nothing to compare prices against.

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        • Silent majority - 05/07/2016 08:25

          If you compare season ticket prices from Ashford to london. Tickets which allow use on HS1 are 15% higher. If HS2 is so sure of its case why does it not use "real world" figures. Alternatively pass a law saying HS2 fares have to be pegged at non HS2 rates

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          • FrankH - 05/07/2016 09:06

            I forgot about the Javelin services. But don't forget they are a limited stop (3) timed at 140 mph and direct to St Pancras taking 40 minutes. The best time to Charing X is 77 minutes with 8 stops timed at 100 mph which I doubt it will reach. It's a premier service with rates to suit, comparing both it seems cheap to me. HS2 if/when built is only planned to go near not direct (Euston excepted) to any city/town centre, it's barely going to be any faster than present centre to centre so can hardly command premium fares. Although I've no doubt the operators will try.

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  • Jeremy Fisher - 02/07/2016 06:25

    There's very considerable scepticism regarding this scheme, not least that expressed this week by Professor Rod Smith who termed the project a "dog's dinner" and "crazy". Time to pull the plug.

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  • Mike Pease - 04/07/2016 21:46

    Strangely enough, this is actually a GOOD time to go ahead with HS2, and with all the other proposed railway ( and other ) investment projects. With all the negative fallout from Brexit, the Government, backed by the Bank of England, will do anything to stave off a probable return to recession. Falling bond yields mean that it's cheaper for them to borrow now than at any time in history. 'Quantitative easing ' (printing more money to you and me ) actually helps still more. The same actually applies to countries around the world - governments can now happily ratchet up their borrowings in the knowledge that their central banks will, in effect, pick up the tab. So politicians can can now spend lots of other people's money while smiling at the t.v. cameras and telling the electorate that they're doing something worthwhile. Both the International Monetary Fund and Standard and Poor ( who just cut Britain's Triple A credit rating ). S. & P. have said that Britain would derive more economic benefit from increased infrastructure spending than any other major world economy except Brazil. Britain now has a shocking infrastructure investment gap of 60 billion pounds. An increase in infrastructure investment of 1% of our Gross Domestic Product would create a 'boost' to GDP of 2.5 times as much as that investment over a 3-year period. This would be double the effect of a similar increase in Germany or France. This investment could be backed by increased investment from other countries, notably China. Britain is a highly attractive investment market for China, and it has been estimated that up to 105 billion could be invested in projects here. The tender prices of construction companies are expected to rise by about 25% over the next five years. The Building Cost Information Service reckons that tender prices will rise a little higher than costs for the first two years - so profits could be higher during this period, meaning a surprisingly bright prospect for Britain's building and engineering industries. Do the politicians have the courage to grab this opportunity while they can, or will they just lose their nerve and blame the resulting slump on Brexit?

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  • John - 12/07/2016 21:02

    While I support the project, to continue spending billions on HS2 right now would be madness. It would be seen as spendthrift and further reduce confidence in the UK economy and it's leadership

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