UK Ramps Up Intercity Rail Investments

East Midland Train

» Continued investment in the U.K.’s rail network comes at a considerable cost, but spending on existing services will complement planned high-speed rail route and further recent ridership increases.

Opposition to the United Kingdom’s second high-speed rail line, the £17 33 billion* connection between London and Birmingham called HS2, has been stewing for years. Critics of the line — much like opponents to rail programs in the U.S. — suggest that the project’s benefits do not justify its enormous cost (both monetarily and in terms of its effects on the rural landscapes trains will pass through) and that other investments on existing lines would be more effective.

While the U.K.’s Conservative-led coalition government, itself teetering and facing a double-dip recession, continues to maintain its support for the HS2 program, it has not limited its public investments just to that line, and this week it announced a £9.4 billion ($14.6 billion) scheme

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Defying Criticism, Government Finalizes Plans for U.K. High-Speed Rail


» A new route from London to Birmingham to be opened by 2026, with further extensions planned into 2030s. Project continues to face healthy skepticism.

Whatever the recession’s effects on government budgets, infrastructure development in Europe continues to advance at a steady pace. The United Kingdom government affirmed last week that it would move forward with the construction of a £18.8 billion ($29 billion) high-speed link between London and Birmingham, due for opening in 2026. This in spite of draconian cuts across all sorts of public services, both in Britain and across the continent.

The U.K.’s high-speed effort — it will effectively produce the nation’s first domestic truly high-speed line — follows almost two decades of travel to and from Paris and Brussels via Eurostar trains that operate under the English Chanel. Though those services have only recently met opening-year ridership expectations, Eurostar holds the large majority of the air-rail

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U.K. Government Confirms High-Speed Plans

Euston Station

» Country’s second high-speed rail line would speed commuters from London to Birmingham in 49 minutes; extensions to Manchester and Leeds are planned.

After seven months in power, the United Kingdom’s Conservative-led government has endorsed the previous Labour Government’s plans for a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham, a connection that will reduce running times between the country’s two largest metropolitan areas from 1h20 to less than fifty minutes. In addition, the Department for Transport, led by Phillip Hammond, has recommended the eventual extension of the route northeast towards Leeds and northwest towards Manchester in a 335-mile Y-shaped corridor to cost upwards of £30 billion ($46 billion) to construct.

The Conservative Government’s endorsement of this HS2 route confirms practically universal political support for the high-speed project in Britain and indicates that construction will get underway in 2016. Upon entering power, the Conservatives sent mixed messages about

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Chicago’s Parking Fiasco Fails to Stem Calls for Privatization of Infrastructure

High-Speed 1 Near Ashford Station

» As the United Kingdom encourages investors to pony up billions of pounds for its High-Speed 1 route, Chicago’s sell-off of parking assets comes back to bite.

Who knew an investment in public infrastructure could be so profitable? Or rather, are government entities being bamboozled out of the value of their own property?

About two years ago, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley sold off the rights to 75 years of his city’s public parking meters for $1.15 billion to a partnership of private companies led by Morgan Stanley. Mayor Daley pushed the city council to approve the deal, since it would mean a huge cash infusion into a municipal government facing large budgetary shortfalls. And he argued that putting the parking system in the hands of private enterprise would bring in market-based pricing, essential to improve the circulation and distribution of automobiles in the city’s downtown, but impossible to implement

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With New Government Settling into Power, U.K.'s HS2 Project Could be Radically Reworked


» New government, set on fiscal austerity, could limit transport expenditures in face of the recession. New minister declares an end to “the war on motorists.”

In power for thirteen years, the British Labour party had a mixed record when it came to transportation investments. While it greatly expanded funds committed to public transportation operations and maintenance, especially in London, it did so while pushing private ownership of bus lines and PPP control over construction programs. While it brought the nation’s railroads back from the abyss caused by John Major’s hugely problematic privatization of British Rail, it made few investments in high-speed rail even as virtually every other developed country was doing so.

Only last year, after enduring intense pressure from the rival Conservatives, did Labour finally come around, agreeing to fund a new line heading north from London. In March, Secretary of State for Transport Andrew

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by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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