Government developing High Speed North – an integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the North

HS2 issues Notices to Proceed to its four main works civils contractors, marking the start of its construction phase.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that it is working on an integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the North – High Speed North.

The Oakervee Review into HS2, published on 11 February 2020, recommended that Phase 2b – the Y-shaped network between Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – should go ahead as planned. However, it also concluded that Phase 2b should be considered as part of an integrated rail plan for the North and Midlands that will include plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, and other major Network Rail schemes, ensuring these are scoped, designed, delivered, and can be operated as an integrated network.

The Oakervee Review recommended that HS2 should go ahead in its entirety, including Phase 2b.

Douglas Oakervee further identified the opportunity to challenge design and costs on Phase 2b, including standards, running speed, and responsibility for delivery. On current plans, Phase 2b of HS2 will deliver connectivity for the East Midlands and the North of England considerably later than the rest of HS2, and there are questions about whether its design maximises the benefits from connectivity. The government has said that it wants to ensure that Phase 2b of HS2 and other planned rail investments in the Midlands and the north are scoped and delivered in an integrated way, including with the wider rail network, whilst driving down unnecessary costs and over-specification.

For these reasons, the government, working with HS2 Ltd and local leaders and informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), will draw up an integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the North as recommended by Oakervee.  It will also proceed with the legislation that is needed to allow for the development of the Western Leg, provided it does not prejudge any recommendations or decisions that will be taken in this plan, and noting that Phase 2b can be legislated for in two or more hybrid bills, which may run concurrently.

The plan will consider the following:

  • How best to integrate HS2 Phase 2b and wider transport plans in the north and Midlands, delivering benefits from investments more quickly;
  • How best to reduce cost, including opportunities to reconsider HS2 Phase 2b scope and design standards to prevent over-specification, improve efficiency and reduce costs;
  • The recommended approach to sponsorship and delivery, including governance and delivery models, and how to take account of the views of local leaders;
  • How best to deliver rail connectivity with Scotland, in conjunction with the Scottish Government.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) will conduct a review of the lessons of HS2 Phases 1 and 2a for delivery of the project, particularly Phase 2b. This will form one of the inputs to the integrated rail plan so those lessons learned can be used to plan for the next phase.

The DfT expects the integrated rail plan to be published by the end of the year.

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