HS2 – what is the real story?

I have been contemplating this for a while…


I was, and am, a massive supporter of HS2. I think it would be great for the East Midlands. In fact, part of my initial support was around the concern of us missing out. If it got built and didn’t stop by us – then that, in my book, was a disaster. Trains whistling past us to ‘other destinations’ was a potential issue for Nottingham (and Derby).

But the recent months have seen a change in tack.

Support has started to wane. This was an all-party solution – a long term plan that was supposed to go beyond the five year short-term Government accounting periods. It was a big thing and something for the whole country to back (unless you didn’t get a station or were a NIMBY of course)>

But the money bit has raised its ugly head. And the story isn’t clear. Whichever figure you use it is a lot of cash (£40-60bn?). And then there’s the benefits calculations – and whether they were ‘made up’. In fact it is difficult to understand the calculations – I often smile when a City says, “Because of this new [underground bomb shelter]* we have added [£14.73m] to the local economy”. It’s hard to challenge the figures – they do make great headlines though.

But the final part here is the timescale – I have lost track of when – but it isn’t going to help my commute anytime soon. It might help my ‘kids’ and theirs and I could buy into that.

So, where are we at? Well, it’s a lot of wonga – which could be used elsewhere. It’s a long way off. It is going to make a mess. And – we probably need it to keep the UK competitive and enable public transport to make a quantum leap.

But I just wonder at what point this Government will attach, leech like, onto something which will excuse the ‘egg on face’ moment and allow them to blame someone else for the reason they have … postponed it? Those stories are circulating…

* Insert your own project and figures here

Like Watching Ink Dry?

The Queen popped into the House of Lords yesterday and amidst the Ermine and parchment she made an ‘early’ announcement about High Speed 2 – to the extent that it’s got a green light.

queens speech

Two Bills are likely in the next phase of Parliament – the first starting the London to Birmingham line then a further bill for the ‘Y’ to Manchester via Toton Nottingham and Sheffield.

Work might start on the line in 2016/17 and the first trains could run in 2026. But not in my back yard – we’ll have to wait until around 2032/3. So that’s 20 years away. That’s not going to help my frequent trips to the ‘smoke’.

The estimates on cost are around £32bn. But this is for rail at 250mph – meaning London to Toton could be 45 minutes. London to Leeds will be halved to just 57 minutes.

I am still a supporter of the HS2 line, I think it will allow us to get a competitive edge over some other cities. The disappointment is that it is going to take so long. Of the people I have talked to about this the support is unwavering, the frustration is the timescale.

I heard on the radio yesterday morning that it takes three days for the ink to dry on the goatskin vellum parchment the Queen reads from – waiting for HS2 is much like watching that ink dry?

The Nottingham Tram – an update

It was a week of free breakfasts and lunches last week – with lots of networking events. One was an update on the Nottingham Tram. This week I was singing the praises of HS2. But the Nottingham tram is different – the work is underway on the two new extensions.

I learned quite a lot at the event put on by TramLink:

1. It is a PFI deal for 23 year years – and will cost £570m
2. two-thirds of the money came from central Government; the balance from Nottingham City Council.
3. Lines 2/3 should add a capacity of 10m more passengers to the present line each year
4. The line will create 10,000 jobs
5. The economic benefit of the new lines is estimated at £300m

The Tram will be in place by the end of 2014. By that time there will have been 1,622 tonnes of steel installed and 23,000m3 of concrete poured!

One of the key parts of the construction is where a new bridge crosses the main Nottingham Station – this will be the first time this has been done in the UK. It will be eased across at a rate of 1m/hour…

We were reminded of the sustainable benefits too; 1 team is the equivalent of 3 buses or 177 cars.

The tram remains a big selling point for the City – even though I have my doubts about the effectiveness for everyone. It doesn’t cover the whole city – so corridors will develop where the influence is felt most. But the other factor remains the (relatively) short term mess. Our city roads are currently in a state of turmoil as the contractors work to prepare the route an start on the installation of the lines.The Workplace Parking Tax (levy) is not a great advert for the City – we are seeing people ask whether it is due when they look at buildings. It does not make them competitive – especially if the are away from the zones!

HS2 Here we come!

As predicted last week – there was an announcement yesterday that the ‘Y’ line of HS2 (from Birmingham to Leeds) will have a stop in Nottingham – the location of which (as I gambled) will be at Toton Sidings. I got the day wrong last week – I thought it was to be today! I hope you didn’t lose too much money.


I have blogged about this before – my view is that this is really good news for Nottingham. It puts us firmly on the national and international map. Getting to London in under an hour is one part, but the ability to get into Europe at high speed will offer a viable alternative to flying.

It is time the UK had a proper world-class travel system. In Shanghai I have been on the mag-lev train at 267mph. It is incredible. We are still running on rails that in part are 50 years or more old. That’s why I often feel like I have been wrung out when I get to London! We need fast, smooth and clean trains.

So what next? Well there are some legal loopholes. It is expected that the first work will actually begin in 2017 – with the London – Birmingham route open in 2026 and our station in 2033. That’s a long way away. I can only hope that this Government sees the sense in bringing the whole project forward!

The headline facts and figures are:

The London to Birmingham line will be around 140 miles long;
The total network (Phase One: between London and Birmingham and linked to HS1; and Phase Two: links to Manchester and Leeds; and a Heathrow spur) will be around 330 miles of track;
More than half the Phase One route will be in cuttings or tunnels;
Around 56.5 miles of Phase One will be partially or totally hidden in cutting to reduce visual effects and noise in neighbouring communities;
In the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) over 11 miles of the Phase One route will be in tunnel, green tunnel or cutting, with just over a mile and a half of the line on the surface.

The cost is estimated at £32.7bn (at 2011 prices). We need to start saving!

Lumpy – like porridge

It’s that time of year again when my firm, Innes England, publishes a look back at the previous years trading in the East Midlands marketplace.


We hold three events – in each of the cities where we have offices. Leicester was Tuesday, Derby yesterday and this morning the final one was in Nottingham yesterday. We get around 600 people to come along.

This is our 7th year of publishing data about key deals and average rents / capital values in the three cities. The last 5 years have been difficult stories to tell. It’s not pretty as they say. Most people in the Industry realise that the market remains a challenge. Money remains tight. Deals are scarce and tenant is king – at the moment. I don’t need to bore you with this data – you already know.

There is an interesting take on all of this – perhaps we are in a depression. We have certainly been in the doldrums for a long period – and I can’t see what is changing at the moment. I can’t help but wonder if this place we are in is the new ‘norm’. We hark back to the boom times of 2007 – but no one I speak to thinks that this era is back anytime soon. The sentiment in the market is not an optimistic one. Subdued would be an understatement!

Even the Bank of England speaker, Alistair Cunningham, said we shouldn’t get too excited about 2013. Growth is likely to remain non-existent.

So we bobble along the bottom again. For the foreseeable future

Will Rossiter Nottingham Business School summed it up nicely at our event yesterday – ‘the market is like porridge – lumpy’!

If you would like a copy of our Market Insite and couldn’t make the presentations let me know through here and I will make sure we get you a copy!

HS2 – an imminent announcement

It is widely expected that a Minister will make an announcement next week (put your money on Tuesday) about the route of HS2 rail – and whether the East Midlands will get a station. If we do – the six million dollar question will be ‘where’. I have covered this subject before – and we have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride.


HS2 would be good for the East Midlands in my view. I think we will miss out if the trains simply whistle by us. Stations will give places a competitive edge. It will certainly put us on the map!

The job creation during construction will be significant.

This morning I am at the third of my firms Market Insite events – more on that tomorrow. You might be able to guess that the market isn’t exactly booming!

There was real evidence when the east coat main line was electrified that values around station stops improved. When the first phase of Nottingham’s tram was built it was estimated that values of properties in the near vicinity rose by around 10%. More importantly tram stops kick-started stalled developments.

If we assume that we aren’t going to see a freeing up of money – then we need to see some major infrastructure projects?

HS2 would be a great project – if only it were to start sooner?

In the meantime if you want another little bet on whether there is going to be a Station in the East Midlands I would say the smart money is on ‘yes’. As to whether it goes to Derby or Nottingham – my money is ‘between the two’. At a place called Toton. There have been some interesting comments locally about an international rail station being called “Toton Sidings’, I suspect that it might get named properly – ‘Nottingham International’…

Nottingham – transport for the future

As we start 2013 Nottingham looks as though it will be at the forefront of some amazing new transport systems.


The A453 widening starts this months – making the route into Nottingham from the M1 and south a proper road – not the horse-track we currently have. This dualling is long overdue. I think this will have the biggest and most measurable impact on the City.

And then the tram works continues. The £500m scheme will become even more visible during 2013. The mess is visible at the moment. Like most of these major infrastructure projects I guess we will expect it to get worse before it gets better? I have mixed views on the tram. By it’s very nature it is pretty inflexible. It goes no-where near my house (the local NIMBY’s are happy) but it does go past my office – and into town. If the fares are reduced I may even use it!

Then we should hear shortly that the HS2 extension will come through our region. As I blogged before Christmas – it will be an interesting question about whether we get a stop – the second question will be whether it will be in Nottingham or in Derby. Or at Toton Sidings. This will have my full support if we get a stop. If we don’t it won’t (it will then be a waste of money!).

These three projects have the capability of putting Nottingham well and truly on the map. Two are underway – or will be and the third looks a good odds-on favourite. We just have to tolerate the short term mess?

High Speed Train 2013 news

I met the Transport Minister The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin last week. He was speaking at an event in London organised by those in favour of HS2 Rail.


He was appointed Secretary of State in September – and he is due to make an announcement on the route for the “Y” section of the line – the one that heads from Birmingham through to Leeds. As someone who represents the Derbyshire Dales he also has a keen eye on the route through or neck of the woods!

Derby have been making noises to the HS2 Company to try to get the line to head through their City (the touristy place). Nottingham are keen too – but appreciate that you can’t run it in town. There is a fairly logical place – between Nottingham and Derby, close to the end of the tram line and at the junction of the M1 and A52. That would seem more logical than choosing one or other city.

I did speak to Patrick after his talk – but he wouldn’t commit on the location!

The other person I met at the event was Peter Waterman (of Stock Aitkin Waterman fame). He is a really genuine guy – with a passion both for railways – but also for training young people. He sees major opportunities for young people and apprentices in particular. He employs lots of them in his steam railway engine business! He did ask the un-askable question of the Minister.

“Can we please ensure that the rolling stock is built in Britain”. A sentiment liked by the assembled crowd. Although Siemens (who had sponsored the event) went a bit pale!

So we have to wait to hear about the line location and stations. I have a pound each way on Toton Sidings. I have nothing on Derby.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff, Nottingham Tagged campaign, , Kylie, , NIMBY, Patrick McLaughlin, Pete Waterman, Rt Hon Sec State, Train, Transport, Westbourne

HS2 – off the rails?

I hear that the proposed HS2 line may have come off the rails. Although the public announcement hasn’t quite reached the hinterlands of Nottingham.

I was concerned a month or so ago, as I had heard that the HS2 line might end up in Derby rather than Nottingham. There was a view that Derby had deserved some good rail press – although Toton sidings had, in my view, always been the perfect solution. Of course the mess over Bombardier missing out on UK contracts would have caused some red faces in Whitehall. Perhaps HS2 would be a the sop?

But this might no longer be the case. There are a few Tories who might have to manage their clipped fairways and greens colleagues and friends. Too many valleys impacted seems to be a theme emerging. And that’s without a debate about the cost. The inside track (sorry!) suggests that HS2 has gone of the boil a little.

I had publicly supported HS2 – and still do. But conditionally. I want it in my back yard (I guess that makes me an IMBY?) My campaigning was on the back of a Nottingham connection – frankly anywhere else would be a waste.

In the last few weeks I have also travelled to London a lot – always by train. I have been thinking about the journey time. At around 90 minus it’s not too bad a journey. Electrification might shave 10 minutes off that.

By the time I’m sat down, sorted my tickets, grabbed tea, fired up the MAcBook – I probably only get an hours work done. In fact last week I was praying for a delay as I was trying to finish something…

So is this a disaster if it doesn’t happen? Probably not on refection…

Will HS2 happen for Nottingham?

I blogged before about the HighSpeed2 Train line and my view that it was critical for Nottingham. Shorter train journeys to London must be of benefit to us.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project was approved earlier in the year. Well, the first phase was. This was the line from London to Birmingham. The second phase will then form a ‘Y’ shape and he’d from Birmingham to Leeds. There has been a lobby for a stop in Nottingham.

Or more precisely between Nottingham and Derby – close to the motorway and somewhere near the end of the tram line. All roads point to Toton? It’s a logical place, unless you support the East Midlands Parkway Station on the A453.

Recommendations to ministers about this future extension should be made to ministers by the end of the year. So we have some time to wait for the outcome.

But I have it on good authority that Nottingham may not now benefit. I have been told that the line may well go to the west of Derby. There is current infrastructure there and the right noises are not being made to the Government. It was suggested to me that HS2 might get a spur at a later date to Nottingham.

This would be disastrous in my view. You cannot get an official response as the whole project is shrouded in mystery and secrets. But there seems to be a slightly different mood in the City. It will be a real headache if the line doesn’t benefit us at the first cut. We need to up the campaign!!

I will do a little digging to see what I can find out…