Train passengers will suffer 14 years of ‘hellish’ rail delays if HS2 is scrapped for a cheaper alternative, a government report warned today.
Network Rail says axing the high-speed line would force the West Coast Main Line, East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line to close on weekends for more than a decade.
The report, to be released tomorrow, warns that a ‘very unattractive’ package of closures, diversions and delays would be needed to carry out upgrades and ‘piecemeal’ improvements.
It says diversionary routes would leave passengers facing long journeys on replacement buses or slow routes.
The report suggests there would need to be a staggering 2,770 weekend closures to allow for 144,000 hours of work on the existing lines.
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A Government source said: “We need to do something because our railways are nearly full, but the alternative to HS2 is a patch-and-mend job that would cause 14 years of gridlock, hellish journeys and rail replacement buses.”
The report is based on an analysis by Network Rail and the engineering consultancy Atkins, and also argues that the upheaval would damage the economy and require the demolition of homes and businesses.
An unnamed government source said: “Network Rail’s judgement is that the scale of service closures involved across three main lines makes the alternatives look very unattractive.”
The report claims some journeys from London to the North could be almost double their current times while the work takes place. MPs will vote on Thursday on a ‘paving bill’ giving the
Government the authority to continue preparatory work. It is guaranteed a majority as the Labour leadership support the move, although it has issued only a one-line whip for MPs to attend. Up tos 30 Tories could rebel.
But the crunch will come in March or April when final legislation is expected to come before the Commons.