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expert reaction to the HS2 rail project being given the go ahead by government

Jeremy Acklam, Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Transport Expert, said:

“We welcome the announcement for the go ahead for HS2 – it will be a necessary part of both the Midlands and proposed Northern powerhouse rail systems. However, we recommend HS2 Ltd to involve some of the UK’s 5.9m Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the work. SMEs account for 60% of UK employment and many are ready to support the HS2 project with innovative and cost-saving ideas. This should be done through the launch of a programme of Innovation Partnerships, which is the process introduced by the Government to allow SMEs to provide innovative goods and services to large companies and projects.”


Prof John Womersley, Director-General, European Spallation Source (ESS), said:

“I would recommend to see if there are project management lessons to be learned from big infrastructure projects in other fields. For example, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was built within a very tightly constrained budget and has delivered outstanding science. Cross-fertilisation of ideas is always useful.”


Prof William Powrie, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, University of Southampton, said:

“Pressing ahead with High Speed 2 as part of a wider strategy to decarbonise transport in the UK is a welcome decision. While costs could be cut by reducing the scope or specification of the project (e.g. running trains on ballasted instead of concrete slab track or using fewer tunnels and false cuttings intended designed to reduce noise and visual intrusion), the ramifications of these decisions would be with us forever and the savings might well be small.  While costs have been incurred to minimise impacts on neighbours, High Speed 2 won’t be as intrusive as the motorways that criss-cross some of the more populous parts of our country. As a nation we want to ensure best value; but if we want robust, modern infrastructure that will be transformational for society and for the environment, we must not compromise on the quality and fitness for purpose of what we create.”


Nick Baveystock, Director General of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said:

“On balance, today’s decision is the right one. The challenges that HS2 seeks to solve are significant. With the UK’s population set to reach 75 million in the coming decades, we must have a rail network that can meet the demands of commuters, now and in the future, by addressing overcrowding, resilience and reliability.

“The Government has also rightly recognised that HS2 should be properly integrated into the wider rail network – a holistic approach to infrastructure planning always delivers better outcomes. Focus should now be redirected to the future planning and delivery of HS2 – ensuring that its benefits, not just its costs, remain at the forefront of people’s minds.”


Prof Roderick Smith, Formerly Chief Scientific Advisor Department for Transport, and Royal Academy of Engineering Research Professor, Imperial College London, said:

“Whilst I hugely supportive of the need for HS2, it is disappointing that a complete review of the project has not been announced. What is proposed is the wrong kind of railway, expensively designed which completely lacks the public support which is vital for such a massive infrastructure project. The way in which the railway will promote development has not been thought out, and the shape of a completed network has not been considered. What we are now promised is a complete and expensive dog’s dinner! Only in the UK could such huge decisions be made without meticulous planning and reference to existing knowledge from other countries and people with knowledge and experience.”



Declared interests

Jeremy Acklam: “No conflicts of interest”

Prof Powrie: “I helped HS2 with a review of costs about a year ago and I am namechecked in the HS2 Chair’s Report by Allan Cook. They have in the past supported research students here at the University of Southampton. But all that is because I am committed to low carbon forms of transport including walking and cycling, not the other way round!”

Prof Smith: “None”

Prof Womersley: “None”

None others received.  

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