The coalition government is preparing a new case for HS2. Concerned that public and political support for the project is slipping away, there’ll be a major effort to renew enthusiasm for it.
In this new case, there’ll be far less emphasis on speed and far more emphasis on how HS2 is needed because the existing railway lines are full up. This marks a recognition inside government that the savings on the journey time to Birmingham, which are less than half an hour, are too small to act as a public justification for the project. Expect to see this new argument reflected in the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s speech on Wednesday.
I suspect that HS2 will retain the support of all three front benches in this parliament. Andrew Adonis’s role in formulating policy for Miliband means that Labour is highly unlikely to move to a position of all out opposition to it. But the risk to HS2 comes from delay. The longer it takes to actually start laying track, the less likely it is it will actually happen.