MP Casts Doubt on UK Broadband Advantages of HS2 Rail Undertaking


The MP for Chesham and Amersham, Sarah Inexperienced, has challenged the UK Authorities to make progress on commitments made to native authorities alongside the Section One rail route for Excessive Velocity 2 (HS2), which amongst different issues included the promise to assemble a brand new “broadband superhighway” to assist broaden quicker web entry.

The HS2 challenge is massively costly – its present estimated value is between £72bn and £98bn (at 2019 costs) – and alongside the way in which quite a lot of folks have recommended that such cash may have been higher spent on bettering gigabit broadband and highway connectivity, amongst different issues. But it surely did additionally pledge to carry some broadband advantages of its personal.

HS2 Route Map

The HS2 plan initially included the development of a brand new “broadband superhighway” alongside the route (right here), the place high-capacity fibre optic cables can be laid. However a 2016 report from the Excessive Velocity Rail Committee (HSRC) famous that the laws solely made “passive provision for set up of broadband infrastructure on the route, however not precise set up comparable to ducting and cabling” (right here). The identical committee discovered that a number of areas alongside the route, which might not stand to achieve straight from the railway itself, lacked good broadband.

At across the similar time in 2016 quite a lot of native authorities – together with Lee Parish Council (Sarah Inexperienced’s constituency) – obtained an assurance about broadband provision from HS2 Ltd, which pledged to maintain them “up to date on the end result of discussions with the Division for Tradition, Media and Sport and [Building Digital UK] in relation to assist for broadband provision for communities alongside the Section One route.”

NOTE: The HS2 challenge pre-dates, by fairly a couple of years, the federal government’s present £5bn Undertaking Gigabit broadband rollout.

Sarah Inexperienced MP informed the Home of Commons:

“Other than a couple of holding letters, The Lee Parish Council has not heard something for 3 years. Will the Minister present particulars about these discussions to reassure my constituents that they’re certainly going down?”

In response, Julia Lopez, the UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, inspired Sarah Inexperienced to jot down to her concerning the subject: “I’m eager that any hon. Member ought to really feel that they’ll write to me about points of their space. We try to get a significantly better system up and working in order that we are able to get such circumstances answered. I encourage her to jot down to me as I’m very blissful to look into her issues.”

Sadly, it stays unclear simply what sort of broadband connectivity advantages shoppers can count on to obtain from HS2, or certainly whether or not the brand new cables will attain each a part of that route, or solely sure areas. Naturally, Sarah Inexperienced and others have been anticipating “actual, significant engagement, not insubstantial letters adopted by radio silence.” But it surely in all probability doesn’t assist that HS2 has been beset by vital delays.

As we’ve mentioned earlier than, HS2 is now up to now behind the unique plan that, by the point it has accomplished, the underlying drawback might have already been resolved, no less than for most of the areas alongside its route. Section One will run from London to the West Midlands, the place it can re-join the present West Coast Mainline. Providers will journey onwards to locations like Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Preston and Wigan.

Nevertheless, Section One is not going to now open till between 2029 and 2033. By comparability, the federal government’s Undertaking Gigabit programme, assuming no vital delays, goals to have “nationwide” protection of gigabit broadband (1000Mbps+ obtain) speeds by the top of 2030 (we suspect 97-99% could also be extra real looking, however that’s nonetheless good).

Moreover, there’s an enormous query mark over how a lot of a practical distinction HS2 may make to broadband provision, since many elements of the areas on the HS2 route have already got core fibre optic cables close by. Generally the problem is much less about core fibre capability and extra about the price of connecting particular person houses in sparse rural communities. However clearly there might be some distant areas that might nonetheless profit.

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