Sir David Higgins’ HS2-Plus Review , released on 17th March 2014, may be viewed as a political success but will it be judged as being visionary from a rail planning perspective in the future? The story is now very clearly focussed on “enhancing capacity”; reference to journey- time savings and cost:benefit ratios have been consigned to history.
The rail and infrastructure sectors will be delighted that the £50 billion price has been left unaltered, enabling businesses to plan their investments in the necessary capability and capacity. There is now the chance of much of the line in to Euston going underground and Euston itself being significantly redeveloped to generate meaningful property revenue.
Accelerating the push north, by creating the Crewe “hub” 6 years early in 2027, gives a strong commitment towards the ultimate connection along the length of the UK. So, in business case terms, as long as due compensation is properly factored in, there is a lot to be commended in the review.
But, in scrapping the link to St Pancras, and therefore to HS1 into mainland Europe, will future generations look back on another missed opportunity to develop a rail network fit for the needs of the new age travel?