Even with more than £50bn of planned transport investment over the next six years, the railway network will not be able to cope with new capacity, it is claimed.
The strategic case for HS2 sets out in detail the need for a new railway line to provide the extra capacity.
The document outlines how demand for rail travel will continue to grow. By 2026 on commuter services into London during the evening peak, 40% of passengers will be standing, it reckons. Research by Network Rail and consulting engineer Atkins indicates that the alternative to HS2 – patch up the existing network – would mean 14 years of weekend closures on existing lines and deliver only a fraction of the additional capacity.
The updatedeconomic case says that HS2 has a benefit-cost ratio of 2.3 – similar to Crossrail and better than Thameslink of the Jubilee Line extension. However, it is now lower than the 2.5 ratio that the government was previously claiming for the project, in part because additional contingency cover has increased the headline cost figure.
HS2 has been allocated a funding envelope of £42.6bn in the 2015 Spending Review, including £14.4bn of contingency.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We need a radical solution and HS2 is it. A patch and mend job will not do – the only option is a new north south railway.
“HS2 brings massive benefits to the north, is great for commuters and the alternatives just don’t stack up.
“Now is the time to be bold and deliver a world class railway which Britain deserves and can truly be proud of. Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to take this opportunity.”
Mr McLoughlin added: “We are continuing to work with the construction and supply industry and with local communities to ensure that this unprecedented investment in a new north-south line will deliver the best possible return to the British economy, and be built at the lowest possible cost and with the lowest possible environmental impact.”
Subject to parliamentary approval, the new railway will be built in two phases: phase one will provide a new high-speed line between London and Birmingham. Phase two will provide new lines to Leeds and Manchester, creating a Y-shape on the map. It will be tied in with the rest of the rail network.