Shapps talks of HS2 eastern leg ‘rethink’
Reports this morning claim that transport secretary Grant Shapps could be on the verge of delaying or cancelling the ‘eastern leg’ of HS2, which would serve the East Midlands and Yorkshire and terminate at Leeds. There has been a debate about this part of HS2 for some time, particularly as the costs of the first section between London and Birmingham continue to spark criticism.
Mr Shapps has been speaking at a fringe event during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, where he said: ‘When HS2 was first thought about, 15 to 20 years ago now, we didn’t have Northern Powerhouse Rail, we didn’t have the Midlands Hub. A lot has changed.’ He pointed out that the government’s Integrated Rail Plan is due ‘presently’, and continued: ‘It’s not far away, so get ready … we do want to see people able to travel around more easily, get to places faster and with greater capacity. I think it gives you a good idea of my direction of travel.’
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon responded: ‘You cannot trust a word the Tories say. Expecting people to accept endless rebadging of promises made years ago is insulting. Poor transport connectivity continues to hold back the North, Midlands and beyond and the Conservatives’ record is one of total failure to deliver. Communities that stand to lose out once again – thanks to the Government’s incompetence and inability to keep projects on track – will rightly feel betrayed by yet another broken promise dressed up as a new announcement.’
Meanwhile, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said he expected the government to announce that the eastern leg will be delayed, adding that it must be made clear that the delay is temporary, and that HS2 will eventually be built in full as planned.
Eurostar predicts Thalys merger by end of year
A merger between Eurostar and continental high speed operator Thalys is likely by the end of the year, but Eurostar says it lost more than £400 million because of the Covid pandemic. More services are running again from London, but Eurostar’s Board has warned that it is ‘difficult to predict revenues’ as it continues to face ‘material uncertainties’. However, chief executive Jacques Damas told City AM: ‘The green agenda is playing an even more significant role in travel choice and is a key driver for both leisure and business passengers. As the most sustainable option for short haul international travel, and as we launch our climate train to transport delegates to COP26 in Glasgow, we are committed to making it easier and simpler to travel further by high-speed rail.’
Dry ice to fight problem of leaves on line
A technique developed by the University of Sheffield to remove leaves from railways is to be tested by Northern this autumn. The process involves the use of dry ice, which is frozen carbon dioxide. Pellets of the ice, which have a temperature of around 80 degrees Celsius below the freezing point of water, are fired in a stream of air, freezing the leaves. As the CO2 warms and turns back into gas, it breaks up the frozen, brittle leaves. The inventors of this process say their method is more efficient, partly because the equipment can be fitted to passenger trains in service rather than special cleaning trains. It also does not leave a residue, and can be used more than once a day. Dry ice could be in wider use on leaf-strewn tracks within two years.