16th May 2019
Written Evidence for the Public Accounts Committee
Evidence session with the Department for Transport
Wednesday 15 May 2019 at 2.30 pm
Wendover Parish Council: Wendover Short Mined Tunnel Proposal
(1) Rising costs of HS2 Phase One
There is now widespread concern about the rising costs of HS2 phase one and the real threat that the project will fail to provide good value for money for the UK’s taxpayers. Public investment will be critical to driving up performance in the post-Brexit UK economy. But resources are limited and will need to be allocated based on rigorous cost-benefit analysis. HS2 currently fails that test.
The government and HS2 Ltd must address these rising costs now before it is too late, and consider innovative new solutions including a short-mined tunnel at Wendover that would provide significant savings and de-risk the Wendover section of the HS2 phase one route.
(2) Failure of HS2 management and stakeholder engagement in the Chilterns
HS2’s community engagement strategy in the Chilterns has been shambolic and the organisation has failed to maintain mutually effective and beneficial dialogue with key stakeholders. Important deadlines have been missed including failure to meet their own complaints procedure objectives. HS2 Ltd.’s staff are giving and receiving confusing messages, seem to be poorly led, and talented people are leaving the project. In our view HS2 Ltd.’s communications and engagement functions are shambolic and have failed.
Furthermore, issues regarding land access and procurement remain and the peripheral offerings made during the Phase One Hybrid Bill Petitioning Stage including the cycleway network, the training college, the high standard of environmental safeguarding, all are pale imitations of what was promised.
(3) Wendover Short Mined Tunnel solution provides significant savings
Campaigning based solely on evidence Wendover Parish Council have developed a proposal for a short- mined tunnel. Following the example of the HS1 North Downs mined tunnel, the construction of a 4.2km long single bore mined tunnel with centrally located shaft and approach cuttings at Wendover is entirely feasible within the constraints of the land area designated by HS2 for the construction of their published route. A twin-bore mined tunnel with centrally located shaft and approach cuttings at Wendover is also feasible. Furthermore, the mined tunnel and shaft can be constructed without the need for “additional provisions” in the High-Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Act.
Proven mined tunnel construction techniques reduce the time of construction by driving several faces simultaneously. Furthermore, the materials, plant and equipment required for mined tunnelling are available in the UK construction industry or can be readily sourced in Europe, thereby simplifying preparation and construction with minimal capital expenditure with no requirement for major bespoke items such as tunnel boring machines.
Indeed, two recent independent expert reports demonstrate that at a time when the cost of HS2 is under severe pressure, the Wendover Short Mined Tunnel solution is Simpler, Cheaper and Quicker than current HS2 Ltd proposals:
(1) OTB Engineering report on a Mined Tunnel Alternative solution at Wendover (2019), concludes that the proposal is compliant and eminently practicable; and
(2) Michael Byng, construction economist and quantity surveyor’s costing report (2018), complements the engineering proposal and details the substantial savings that are possible.
(4) Key advantages
This simple design-ready solution could be delivered without the need to amend existing legislation and would de-risk the Wendover section of the HS2 phase one route. Its key advantages include:
1. Provides significant savings of between £322 million and £325 million with considerable additional savings compared to current HS2 Ltd proposals;
2. Saves £750 million on a whole life basis including long-term maintenance costs compared to current HS2 Ltd proposals;
3. Reduces the construction programme time by up to 2 years compared to the proposed HS2 Ltd route; and
4. Protects Wendover and the Chilterns AONB from visual, noise and environmental damage caused by the current above surface HS2 phase one route.
It is fully supported locally and has support from Parliamentarians representing Chilterns AONB constituencies; local landowners have also confirmed that they would make land readily available to HS2 Ltd for the tunnel portals and the ventilation shaft at a nominal cost.
(5) Urgent need for an independent peer review
There remains time for the government and HS2 Ltd to consider Wendover’s mined tunnel solution in a short and focused peer review of this innovative cost-effective proposal by an independent expert in railway tunnel construction, with particular regard to its comparison with the HS2 published route in terms of cost, risk and environmental impact; and for the government and UK plc to save money and construction time by adopting it.
For further information please contact Murray Stewart (Director, TFA Ltd) on:
0207 152 4104 or 07557 805 505. Email: email@example.com