HS2: What’s in it for Kent?

train-trackPlans for the next phase of the £32bn HS2 high-speed rail network have been unveiled and it could be good news for Kent, says the School’s transport economics expert Professor Roger Vickerman.

Commenting on today’s government announcement, Professor Vickerman said: ‘The Government’s announcement of the route for the northern extension of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds could be good news for Kent.

‘Whilst much of the focus is on the possible environmental effects of the route, a key element of the plan is that it includes a link from the new HS2 route to HS1. In principle this could allow high-speed services to operate from Ashford to the Midlands and North, boosting even further the integration of Kent into the UK economy.

‘This may be unlikely for various reasons, as the main focus has been on linking cities such as Manchester and Birmingham with Paris and Brussels. But the economics of these through services is likely to be marginal; they could be used however to boost services from the Kent stations to the continent with regional Eurostar services calling at the Kent stations.

‘At the same time experience of living with HS1 in Kent can allow a demonstration of how quickly new infrastructure can be absorbed without creating the devastation being predicted by some. The only depressing thing about today’s announcement is that the first trains over the new lines will not run until 2026 to Birmingham and 2032 at the earliest to Manchester and Leeds.’

Roger Vickerman is Professor of European Economics and Dean of the University’s Brussels School of International Studies.