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An integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the north: High Speed North
The government is fully committed to providing better rail connectivity between London, the Midlands and the north, ensuring all parts of the country benefit from opportunities for economic development and prosperity. As well as committing to deliver HS2, the government remains strongly committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail, improving connectivity between northern cities as well as between London, the Midlands and the north.
The Oakervee review concluded that for Phase 2b of HS2 (the route from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds) a Y-shaped network was the right strategic answer for the country. However, the review also concluded that Phase 2b needs to be considered as part of an Integrated Rail Plan for the north and Midlands which also includes Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, and other major Network Rail schemes to ensure these are scoped, designed, delivered, and can be operated as an integrated network. The Oakervee Review also identified the opportunity to challenge design and costs on Phase 2b, including standards, running speed, and responsibility for delivery.
The government agrees that, on current plans, Phase 2b of HS2 will deliver connectivity for the East Midlands and the North of England considerably later than the rest of HS2, and that there are questions about whether its design maximises the benefits from connectivity. The government wants to ensure that Phase 2b of HS2 and other planned rail investments in the Midlands and the north are scoped and delivered in an integrated way, including with the wider rail network, whilst driving down unnecessary costs and over-specification.
Scope of the Integrated Rail Plan
The government, working with HS2 Ltd and local leaders, will therefore draw up an Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and the north which is framed by the government’s commitment to bring forward transformational rail improvements along the HS2 route as quickly as possible. This work will be informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) looking at the rail needs of the Midlands and the north, and the available evidence on Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, HS2 Phase 2b and other proposed Network Rail projects.
The government will also proceed with the legislation to allow for the development of the Western Leg provided it does not prejudge any recommendations or decisions that will be taken in this plan, and noting that Phase 2b can be legislated for in two or more hybrid bills, which may run concurrently.
The plan will consider the following, based on the NIC’s assessment and taking into account value for money, levelling up, affordability and deliverability considerations:
How best to integrate HS2 Phase 2b and wider transport plans in the north and Midlands, delivering benefits from investments more quickly. This should include a recommended way forward on scoping, phasing and sequencing delivery of HS2 Phase 2b, Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub and other proposed rail investments. This should take into account: government commitments; the current state of development for different projects; the transformational and capacity benefits of these schemes; fiscal and supply chain capability constraints; network integration; consenting routes (including legislation); and, in line with the Oakervee Review conclusion, the appropriate mix of high speed line and upgrades of conventional network, and the sequencing of these, on any elements of the investments under consideration.
How best to reduce cost, including opportunities to reconsider HS2 Phase 2b scope and design standards to prevent over-specification, improve efficiency and reduce costs, drawing on the Phase One lessons learnt work to be led by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (see below).
The recommended approach to sponsorship and delivery, including governance and delivery models, and how to take account of the views of local leaders, consistent with delivering on the objectives of the scheme and value for money. This will include exploring options for new delivery vehicles with northern leaders for the relevant rail enhancements including new lines that may form part of the delivery of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
How best to deliver rail connectivity with Scotland, in conjunction with the Scottish Government.
Input to the Integrated Rail Plan - IPA review on lessons learned from cost overruns
As one of the inputs to the Integrated Rail Plan, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) will conduct a review of the lessons of HS2 Phases 1 and 2a for delivery of the project, particularly Phase 2b. This will include (but is not limited to) the effects of the following on costs of delivery:
- sponsors’ requirements (including delivery into service dates)
- planning and consents process
- engineering specifications including speed
- procurement model and risk allocation
- environmental mitigation
- the role of consultants versus in-house staff
- the role of Project Representatives.
This IPA review should consider decisions made in Phase 1 to date and recommend where it is sensible to deviate from specifications and practice to reduce anticipated final costs in a way that preserves value for money and the strategic and economic case.
The IPA will also draw from the lessons on HS2 to make recommendations for infrastructure more generally including in the areas of legislation, planning, procurement and governance, to ensure all infrastructure projects can be effectively delivered.
Timing of the Integrated Rail Plan
The Integrated Rail Plan will be published by the end of the year.