The Ministry of Transport (DfT) is studying the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the High Speed ​​2 (HS2) project.

In response to a written parliamentary question, Transport Minister Baroness Vere said the West Side Phase 2b business case “will use demand scenarios that explore the impact of Covid to inform the Rentability analysis”.

She added: “This will be the first time that an initial assessment of the impact of the pandemic on the HS2 project has been undertaken. “

The business case is expected to be released in early 2022.

Baroness Vere, however, stressed that HS2 is a “long-term project” that provides travel opportunities “over a long period of time” (over 100 years), which limits “the shorter-term effects of Covid on travel habits ”.

She continued, “The project will open up new employment and regeneration opportunities for millions of people, contribute to regional and national economic development and have lasting impacts that we are not able to fully model or assess.

“The impact of Covid on travel demand continues to emerge, and the ministry is undertaking research and surveys to develop demand scenarios and understand possible impacts on business cases across the transportation portfolio. “

It comes after HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston admitted last May that stations and trains in the megaproject may need to be redesigned to accommodate the travel habits of people in a “post-coronavirus world.”

Thurston revealed that a team has been set up within HS2 Ltd to observe the changing travel patterns of the population over the next 18 months, while speaking at a Railway Industry webinar. Association (RIA) on the impact of the coronavirus.

He said the initial station and train designs “from a pre-coronavirus era” may no longer be fit for purpose and may need to be changed during the detailed design phase to take into account such things as than social distancing.

“So far, we clearly have designs based on pre-coronavirus standards. How we adjust them over time, in fact, if we have to adjust them, only time will tell, ”Thurston said. “It’s likely the world will never be the same again and we need to figure out what we want to leave behind.”

He added: “We need to look at what will be the habits and preferences of people for traveling in the future – we are already seeing people wearing masks and like many places in Asia, I think we will see this become the norm in the future. Europe and UK.

“From a design perspective, we also need to look at what this means in terms of the density of people, both on trains and at stations.

“I think this is a real challenge for us and we won’t know the absolute answer until we look at people’s travel habits over the next six, 12 or 18 months, and then we adjust our designs. to these habits.

“I think this is a great time and opportunity for HS2 and the supply chain to come together and innovate.”

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