HS2 alternative would cause 14 years of 'weekend travel chaos'
Upgrading lines north of London would add far fewer extra seats and double time from capital to Leeds
THE alternative to the HS2 rail line would be an upgrade of existing north-south services, which would cause 14 years of weekend route closures, a new report says.
The report, which was commissioned by the government, will be released tomorrow to bolster the case for the £50bn HS2 project. Its major finding – which has been leaked to the press – is that upgrading the UK's three main north-south rail lines would cost about half as much as HS2 but cause "years of weekend travel chaos", BBC's transport correspondent Richard Westcott says.
In addition, upgrades to the East Coast, Midland and West Coast mainlines would add only "between a third and a half of the extra seats provided by HS2".
The report will be the cornerstone of the "updated business case" the government will unveil tomorrow. It's the fifth official presentation on the controversial scheme since it was first proposed, but previous presentations have been "ridiculed by critics for using flimsy assumptions and 12-year-old data", Westcott says.
The Independent says the Coalition is braced for a "Conservative rebellion" against HS2 in a Commons vote scheduled for Thursday. The "paving bill" will give the government the authority to continue preparatory work on HS2. It is guaranteed a majority as the Labour leadership will support the move, the paper says, but as many as 30 Conservatives could rebel.
HS2 will face its biggest parliamentary test in March or April when final legislation is expected to be put before the Commons. If this is delayed, the timetable for the project to become "shovel ready" in 2017 would slip.
Labour is also becoming increasingly "hostile" towards the costly scheme, the Daily Telegraph says, revealing that key party figures are "secretly considering an alternative route". According to the paper, Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has been provided with an alternative to HS2 that would cost a "tenth of the price". It is the re-opening of the Great Central Railway, which ran from London to Leeds (with a branch in Manchester), but which has been closed since 1966. ·