Abandoning the Northern Section of HS2 Will Slow UK Growth, an Official Adviser Says - Latest Global News

Abandoning the Northern Section of HS2 Will Slow UK Growth, an Official Adviser Says

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Abandoning the northern part of High Speed ​​Line 2 will slow growth in the UK’s biggest regional cities unless alternative rail capacity is built, the government’s top infrastructure adviser has warned, predicting soaring demand on the route over the next two decades.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said on Thursday it was “very worrying” that ministers appeared to have no plan to address the bottleneck in the coming years.

He was speaking as the NIC released its annual update warning that delays in infrastructure investment could slow economic growth and threaten the government’s net zero targets.

Armitt said it was “not too late” for ministers to catch up on infrastructure targets in many areas, but warned that “the window of opportunity to do so is closing”.

“If we avoid big decisions in the next 12 months, the key goals of net zero, regional economic growth and… will be achieved. . . “Environmental protection is at risk,” he said.

The NIC said around two-thirds of infrastructure spending over the next 20 years would need to be funded by the private sector, but urged ministers to increase public spending in line with inflation.

Although the government plans to increase public investment in infrastructure from about £20 billion a year to £30 billion between 2023 and 2025, capital spending should be frozen after that point, she warned.

According to the NIC, additional private funding would be required for the energy, water and telecommunications networks over the next two decades, which would have to be paid for by consumers through bills.

This was particularly the case in the water sector, where bill increases would be needed to tackle sewage pollution, the NIC said, defending the privatized water system as a provider of a “more reliable” supply.

Although the number of unplanned water outages doubled in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22 and leak rates increased over the past two years, customers are still five times less likely to experience unplanned service interruptions than in the early 1990s years, according to the NIC.

The advisory body also reiterated its call for the introduction of mandatory smart water metering to avoid water shortages and drought.

The NIC said the government was on track to miss its targets to decarbonise heating, including its target to install 600,000 electric heat pumps a year by 2028.

She reiterated her call for the government to rule out hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels in domestic boilers, saying it must “start planning for the decommissioning or repurposing of the gas network”.

Armitt had previously been critical of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision in October to cancel the HS2 leg from Birmingham to Manchester, which was originally intended to free up capacity between England’s two largest regional cities.

The government has since argued that the line – part of the UK’s busiest intercity rail corridor – may be able to operate at its current capacity in the future due to falling rail demand since the pandemic.

However, the NIC said its own analysis of central government and rail industry data for three major cities in the North and Midlands showed that “over the next two decades, total passenger arrivals could be significantly higher than in 2019”. particularly in Birmingham.

By 2045, passenger numbers in Britain’s second-largest city could be up to 61 percent above pre-pandemic levels, the NIC estimated, with increases of up to 38 percent and 50 percent in Manchester and Leeds.

Leeds was removed from the HS2 network by the government in 2021.

“Without increases in capacity, this could lead to significantly worse crowding outcomes,” the NIC said.

Armitt said “the honest answer” regarding the knock-on effects of canceling the northern leg was that the commission was “concerned”.

The NIC did not suggest that the northern section of HS2 “needs to be reintroduced”, he said, “but…” . . You can’t ignore capacity limitations.”

Ministers need to “look at different ways in which capacity can be improved,” Armitt said. “Otherwise you risk not reaping the benefits of economic growth and boosting economic activity in the UK.”

Thursday’s report came after the House of Commons Budget Committee warned this week that the British government does not have the skills and capacity necessary to implement its plans to oversee £805 billion of infrastructure spending.

A Department for Transport spokesman said it “disagrees” with the NIC’s findings on HS2, adding that the “facts” surrounding the project have changed.

“That is why we have changed our approach and are now redistributing the £36 billion saved in the second phase [of HS2] in transport projects that boost economic growth and benefit more people in more places, faster,” they added, pointing to the government’s Network North plan for alternative local transport investment.

The government responded more broadly to the NIC’s annual update, saying it “ensures we have the infrastructure we need to grow the economy, improve people’s lives and combat climate change”.

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