This week’s kerfuffle over the extension of the high-speed line northwards will come as no surprise to observers of the company behind the project. HS2 Ltd has a track record of being dismissive of anyone challenging the scheme and treating those whose lives and livelihoods will be devastated by project with contempt.
The Queen’s Speech yesterday dealt with phase 1 of the scheme from London to Birmingham, making no reference to phase 2. Rumours suggests HS2 Ltd is having significant problems designing the routes north of Birmingham to Manchester and to Leeds.
That is not to say, of course, that the phase 1 section is exactly plain sailing so to speak. At the London end there continue to be huge problems how to bring the line into Euston station. We are now into the second redesign and HS2 Ltd recently told Camden residents that works would continue at Euston until 2033.
Solving design problems can be costly, putting further pressure on the budget. Pressure will also come from MPs representing communities directly affected by the line continuing to work for improved mitigation and better compensation for their constituents.
Not an enticing prospect for either the Secretary of State for Transport or the head of HS2 Ltd. It may not be entirely coincidental that the Financial Times reported this week that the head of HS2 Ltd, Sir David Higgins, has threatened to walk away in 15 months’ time if the government failed to back his vision. He made it clear that he would not sign a contract extension as chairman beyond 2015 unless his demands for funding and political support were met.