The Government has managed to cut the cost of phase one of HS2, despite extra tunneling and other mitigation measures.

The construction cost of phase one, London to Birmingham, which got the go-ahead from Transport Secretary Justine Greening, has been cut by around £400m to £16.3bn, despite the fact that an extra eight miles of the line will now be enclosed in tunnels or green tunnels, and 10 miles less on viaducts or embankments.

Transport commentator Christian Wolmar, who is against the HS2 project, is among those labelling the cost reduction “incomprehensible”.

Even so, support for the project has come this week from most of the main rail organisations, the three main parties at Westminster, business groups and England’s northern and Midlands cities.

But despite the extra mitigation measures, designed to reduce the impact on the countryside and on noise, the coalition of campaigners opposing the line remains as vocal as ever.

Stop HS2 campaign co-ordinator Joe Rukin said: “Justine Greening is a Grade 1 hypocrite, otherwise known as a politician. She harked on about it being ‘deeply concerning’ for Government not to listen to public opinion when it suited her, but now it doesn’t suit, she is fully committed to ride roughshod over it.”

A coalition of Conservative-led councils affected by the line are considering launching a legal challenge and even the Prime Minister’s father-in-law, Lord Astor, has publicly condemned it.

Rukin added: “It is not now a question of whether there will be a legal challenge, it’s how many there will be. As Greening herself said: ‘If the Government will not listen in Parliament, then ministers will find they have to listen in the courts.’”

HS2 will serve the north of England and Scotland from phase one through current compatible high speed trains running on the existing network, which would see half an hour off journey times to Scotland.

Greening suggested that the project could unite the whole country, and said: “Whilst the DfT have made no specific detailed assessment of the benefits of extending high speed lines to Scotland, I am committed to delivering a truly national high speed network.”

The package of mitigations to ensure the route has the lowest possible impact on local communities and the environment include a longer, continuous tunnel from Little Missenden to the M25 through the Chilterns, a new 2.75 mile bored tunnel along the Northolt Corridor to avoid major works to the Chilterns Line and impacts on local communities in the Ruislip area, a longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston Le Walls, and to curve the route to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgcote, and a longer green tunnel to reduce impacts around Wendover, and an extension to the green tunnel at South Heath.

The net result of the changes means that around 22.5 miles of the route will be completely enclosed in tunnel or green tunnel, up from 14.5 miles in the earlier consultation route. Around 56.5 miles will be in cuttings, significantly reducing the visual and noise impact of the line, and around 40 miles will be on viaduct or embankment – around 10 miles less than the consultation route. Only around 20 miles will be at or near ground level.

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Author's Bio: 

Roy Rowlands writes for Rail Technology Magazine an independent technical trade journal for the UK rail industry offering a wide view of rail news views and opinions, he also writes for a rail jobs board reporting on the latest trends in rail recruitment