Rail industry press briefing 2013-29

23rd August 2013

  • Alistair Darling changes mind, opposes High Speed 2
  • Independent report HS2 budget could reach £80bn
  • Government planning autumn campaign of support
In this issue:

High Speed 2

Alistair Darling, the former chancellor and transport secretary, came out against the High Speed 2 rail line today in “a shattering blow to the political consensus” behind the project. [The Times]

  • Darling, previously a supporter of the scheme, writes in [The Times] that ‘the facts have changed’ and it is time to revisit the scheme.

Darling’s change of heart comes days after an Institute for Economic Affairs report warned HS2’s costs could nearly double in cost to £80bn and called for it to be dropped. [The Guardian]

  • Senior Tories are ‘braced for revolt’ after the IEA report, which also said HS2 will cost every household £3,000 and ‘defies economic logic’. [Daily Mail]

There were also reports of doubts in the Treasury, with officials privately warning that the cash cost of HS2 will hit £73bn, in a sign of the entrenched and escalating concern within the department over the project. [Financial Times]

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, however, has insisted that his budget of £42.6bn has not changed. [BBC News]

  • George Osborne is helping to plot an autumn campaign to shore up support for the rail line amid reports of internal opposition. [The Times]

A [Financial Times] editorial warns the debate over HS2’s economic worthiness risks distracting from the political debate over competing visions of the kind of country Britain should become.

New services

The three rail companies competing for the Caledonian sleeper franchise – Arriva, FirstGroup and Serco – have been told the service must introduce en suite lavatories in business class berths, new wi-fi facilities, and possibly on-board showers. [BBC News]

Rail campaigners are urging the Scottish government to start planning an 18-mile extension of the Borders railway due to reopen in 2015. [BBC News]

It is generous of FirstGroup to announce it has purchased new rolling stock for the TransPennine Express franchise that expires in two years, [Private Eye] says, but it is intemediary company Angel Trains that paid for them last year.

Other news

[Private Eye] says the Department for Transport has repeatedly promised to stop above-inflation fare rises but appears in no hurry to do so.

London Overground guards are to stage a 48-hour strike over the August bank holiday weekend. [BBC News]

  • Strikes on the London Underground have cost the capital more than £1bn in six years, according to a report. [BBC News]

A row has broken out as assembly members accuse ministers of failing to tackle delays in road and rail projects to boost the north Wales economy. [BBC News]

The [Daily Mail] offers a detailed look at the tabloid allegations surrounding London’s transport commissioner, Peter Hendy.

Green leader Caroline Lucas has used an article in [The Guardian] to call for the renationalisation of Britain’s railways.