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Expert opinion: Chinese investment in HS2 is welcome, with some caveats

Dr John Disney, senior lecturer and rail expert at Nottingham Business School, appraises recently announced plans for China to invest in the UK's High Speed Rail project.

News that China is considering investing in the UK's controversial High Speed Rail (HS2) project is overall very welcome, but with some caveats.

On the positive side, this project has been crying out for a major investor to shoulder some of the risk and to get the project completed as quickly as UK Planning Regulations will allow (which will not be as quick as the case in China). The major transport groups in the UK have so far failed to offer such investment, no doubt being content with bidding for existing rail franchises which are low risk and, therefore, more attractive to many shareholders.

Bids by European train operators to start new services through the Channel Tunnel on HS1 have become embroiled in red tape with start dates being repeatedly deferred and this has obviously acted as a deterrent to them investing in HS2.

So the UK should welcome the move by the China Development Bank (CDB) to take the initiative and underwrite the scheme; clearly they can see the economic potential of the scheme despite much scepticism in the UK.

If this involves the construction of Chinese designed trains in the UK (like the Hitachi factory currently being built in Newton Aycliffe to manufacture the new fleet of Intercity Express Programme trains) then this is also to be welcomed; the only remaining train manufacturing site in the UK is owned by the multinational Bombardier.

However, the UK must be wary of the help with construction offered by the China Railway Engineering Corporation. The UK is a world leader in railway engineering and has an enviable safety record; UK engineers have provided the technical experience behind many global rail projects and it would be folly not to use that expertise in building HS2. Furthermore, there have been some serious operational problems with High Speed Rail in China which no-one would wish to see repeated in the UK.

A significant negative, however, would be any proposals to manufacture the rolling stock in China and ship them over as this would hit manufacturing jobs in the UK, including the entire supply chain, which depends upon train manufacturing remaining in the UK.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Helen Breese, Public Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

    HS2 expert comment

    Transport planning and economic development experts at Nottingham Business School are available to comment on the pros and cons of plans for HS2, including the potential impacts on the current rail network, investment, congestion and the economy around the proposed line.

    Dr John Disney can talk about HS2 on a national and regional level. He has extensive experience as a consultant to the Department for Transport and Nottingham City Council on a range of transport issues; he has been cited by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, which used his categorisation of rural railways as the basis for its enquiry into their future development.

Expert opinion: Chinese investment in HS2 is welcome, with some caveats

Published on 20 June 2014
  • Category: Press office; Nottingham Business School

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