Letter - Desperate need for HS2 salvation

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First of all congratulations to Mary Creagh for her recent appointment as shadow transport minister.

Having worked for the railway all my working life from 1968 until retirement in 2005 I have seen the coming and going of many government ministers in the role of transport.

A very interesting period from the Beeching era and decline of the national network through privatisation to the modern age of unprecedented investment.

This investment has been driven by the need to catch up after years of neglect and the continuing rise in the number of passengers travelling. The figures are staggering. Through the period of banking collapse and depression since 2008 the percentage increase in rail patronage has remained at least at 5% year on year. The current system can barely cope, particularly at peak periods.

I want at this point to mention the continuing mis-quoting of the expected cost of building the high speed line from London via Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.

We have heard quotes up to £80 billion, even latched onto by such bodies as the Institute of Directors, whom one would expect would want to ascertain the credibility of such figures first.

Even Mary Creagh is quoting the Department of Transport’s figure of £50 billion. The correct estimate for the construction of the line is £28.1 billion. This figure is further inflated by the DfT adding another 50% contingency.

Have you ever heard of project estimates adding 50% just in case they are wrong! Railway schemes when I was working were required by the Investment Committee to be plus or minus 5%!

I know this is a huge scheme but I am sure the Project Team will have taken account of the known unknowns and the unknown knowns in the £28.1b scheme.

The High Speed line from the Channel Tunnel to London St Pancras was brought in on time and on budget.

Another point conveniently overlooked is that this amount of capital outlay is not being spent in the first year. It will take until 2033 to spend the £28.1b. KPMG, the well-respected financial consultants, have already stated that the economic benefits are likely to be in excess of £15b per year when it opens, with the Midlands and North benefitting twice as much as London and the South East, and by golly we need it up here. Full and standing trains on the East and West Coast Main Lines are living proof of the desperate need to provide additional capacity and this scheme can do that.

I wish Mary Creagh well in her new appointment,

Ian D Osborne

College Grove Road