Home Economy New rail minister Lord Hendy fuels hopes of HS2 revival

New rail minister Lord Hendy fuels hopes of HS2 revival

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The appointment of Lord Hendy as the new rail minister by Sir Keir Starmer has sparked optimism within the industry that previously scrapped sections of the HS2 project may be resurrected.

Lord Hendy, a prominent supporter of HS2, is expected to champion the expansion of the high-speed rail network. His primary role will be to oversee Labour’s renationalisation of train operators, but his advocacy for HS2 could lead to significant project advancements.

Last year, Lord Hendy criticised Rishi Sunak’s decision to halt HS2 at Birmingham, despite his role as chairman of Network Rail. His new position as rail minister is seen by many as a potential turning point for the project, particularly the extension from the Midlands to Crewe, which would enable HS2 trains to reach Manchester at top speed.

Henri Murison, CEO of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, highlighted that Lord Hendy’s extensive experience and previous involvement with Transport for the North will allow him to effectively communicate the economic benefits of completing more of the original HS2 network. Murison pointed out that Sunak had committed to running HS2 trains into Manchester, but achieving this requires additional construction. He believes Lord Hendy can clearly outline the necessary costs and benefits.

Murison also noted that the railway industry is not seeking additional government funding for the extension, suggesting it could be financed privately. Lord Hendy’s leadership at Network Rail positions him well to oversee the creation of Great British Railways, which will integrate train operators with the track firm as existing contracts expire.

Another significant challenge for Lord Hendy will be simplifying the railway’s ticketing system, a task he successfully managed as transport commissioner in London under mayors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

Richard Bowker, former chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority and ex-CEO of National Express and Virgin Trains, praised Lord Hendy’s deep understanding of the railway sector, stating, “People across the industry are going to be delighted by this appointment, and having someone in government who truly understands how the railway works.”

Lord Hendy’s appointment continues Sir Keir Starmer’s strategy of enlisting specialists for ministerial roles, creating a so-called government of all talents. Though renowned for his railway expertise, Lord Hendy began his career managing bus networks and is known for his passion for Routemaster double-deckers, which he still drives.

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