Big Boost for HS2


Big Boost for HS2

The UK's proposed high speed rail link has been given a crucial boost by news that Network Rail Chief Executive Sir David Higgins will take over as HS2 Ltd Chairman next year.


The civil engineer had already announced that he would leave Network Rail where he has been Chief Executive since 2011, having previously been Chief Executive of government regeneration agency English Partnerships and of the Olympic Delivery Authority.


The recruitment of such a high profile, proven project delivery specialist to the HS2 job is seen as important to the prospects of a project that is being rocked almost daily by allegations of soaring costs and wavering commitment to it by politicians. It is feared by HS2 supporters that a future Labour government might not give the project the backing that it once did following Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls warning at his party's annual conference in Brighton this week that Labour would not write HS2 a 'blank cheque'.


Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander appeared to concede at a conference yesterday that the project's Hybrid Bill could fail to get through its parliamentary hurdles before the 2015 general election.


Speaking at an Institution of Civil Engineers transport conference in London Mr Alexander strongly backed the planned HS2 line, whose price is being set by government at some £50bn. He said that HS2 and the government's other transport infrastructure plans were 'absolutely essential to the long term future of our economy.'


Mr Alexander said HS2 could be delivered below budget as well as on time and, appearing to backtrack on his earlier comments about the Bill's timetable, he promised conference delegates that the government aimed to deliver the hybrid bill as quickly as possible.


Sir David told the BBC in an interview today that cross party support would be essential for the successful delivery of the project.