August 2019 News Summary

Published on August 6, 2019

Surprise, surprise

A letter from HS2 chairman Allan Cook to the Department of Transport and leaked to the Financial Times, said the revised estimate of HS2 was now up to £85billion, instead of the £55.7 billion the Government has been sticking to since 2015. Mr Cook said this was partly due to “poor ground conditions found during surveying work.

A sceptic’s response

Lord Berkeley, a transport specialist who has been saying for years that the £55 billion figure was unrealistic, remains unconvinced by the new figure. On reading the leak he told the House of Lords that HS2 would eventually prove “ten times worse” than Crossrail for overruns and delays.

The PM’s response

For the moment (early August) the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not playing his hand. He said:”HS2 has a weak business case. Costs are spiralling vertiginously. The company is deeply disorganised in its relations with stakeholders and residents.

“But as a longstanding student of UK infrastructure and its defects, I hesitate before simply chopping a giant national project. We need a proper and urgent review to test whether the money could be spent differently..” He has appointed Doug Oakervee, former chairman of HS2, to carry out a review.

Mr Johnson has committed to a high speed link between Manchester and Leeds, leading many to believe that the proposed northern extension of HS2 from Birmingham is now undermined.

Pylon Work

Fusion, HS2’s early works contractor, has asked for permission to occupy land owned by Bucks County Council by Denham Country Park so they can begin to relocate the power line pylons that stand in the path of the HS2 route.

Procurement Changes

HS2 has changed its procurement requirements for the proposed Birmingham terminus after a lack of response from contractors. Chief Executive Mark Thurston told New Civil Engineer magazine the company was now looking at ways in which the risk could be shared between HS2 and contractors to bring down the cost.

Contractors’ Doubts

Keller, the ground engineering specialist working with contractors on tunnelling schemes in the Chilterns said it has not counted its work on HS2 in its order book because it doesn’t know if the scheme will go ahead.

Alain Michaelis, chief executive of the world’s largest geotechnical contractor, told Building magazine : “HS2 is not been counted as sure business.”

Legal Threat

A resident who lives in a Grade II listed house near Euston is threatening legal action unless HS2 can prove that proposed rail tunnels running near her home are safe. Ms Hero Granger-Taylor commissioned rail engineer Colin Elliff to report on the safety of the proposed tunnels. He said that three tunnels under the approach to Euston could bring down a huge 120 year old brick wall above them, either before or after the tunnels are built.

The Chiltern Society, meanwhile, is still involved in discussions with HS2 about safety issues involving the proposed Chiltern tunnel (see CS campaign news)

Case Dismissed

Two campaigners charged with aggravated trespass against HS2 work in Harvill Road, Uxbridge walked free from court half way through the case when the judge ruled it was not possible to rule they were trespassing. Two prosecution witnesses also gave contradictory evidence. Sarah Green and Laura Hughes were among a group protesting against the destruction of wildlife sites and what they believe is a threat to the Colne Valley aquifer.

Noise Work Begins

Work paid for by HS2 is due to start on the Wendover by-pass over the August Bank Holiday to lay a surface which is said will reduce the noise from HS2 construction traffic.

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