HS2 could run £22bn over budget and be delayed by seven years

3 September 2019, 12:45 | Updated: 11 September 2019, 10:21

HS2 could go £22bn over previous budget
HS2 could go £22bn over previous budget. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The HS2 rail link could end up costing the taxpayer an extra £22bn and may be delayed by up to seven years, the firm behind its construction announced today.

The company responsible for delivering the high-speed railway delivered a statement today raising fears of the additional £22bn cost and long delay to its start.

A spokesman for HS2 said the project faced "challenges" in delivering the programme "under its current scope."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that plans for the service becoming fully operational could be delayed by another seven years.

It comes as the future of HS2 was thrown into doubt last month with an independent review set to consider whether or not to continue the controversial project.

HS2 could be delayed by another seven years, according to Grant Shapps
HS2 could be delayed by another seven years, according to Grant Shapps. Picture: PA

In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Shapps said: "Colleagues will see that the chairman (Allan Cook) of HS2 does not believe that the current scheme design can be delivered within the budget of £55.7 billion, set in 2015 prices.

"Instead he estimates that the current scheme requires a total budget - including contingency - in the range of £72 to £78 billion, again in 2015 prices."

The minister for transport also cast doubt upon the current schedule, saying that initial services on Phase One of the scheme will not be ready by 2026 and Phase Two could see delays of seven years.

He added: "He (Mr Cook) recommends 2028 to 2031 for Phase One - with a staged opening, starting with initial services between London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed by services to and from London Euston later.

"He expects Phase 2b, the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds, to open between 2035 and 2040."

HS2 will cut journey times when travelling between the North and the South
HS2 will cut journey times when travelling between the North and the South. Picture: PA

A report issued by Mr Cook assessed the current status of the HS2 programme and looks into the "comprehensive and far-reaching benefits" of HS2 for the UK which are claimed to be "more significant than those previously taken into account."

However, the original plans for the project "did not take sufficient account" of the effect of building a high-speed line through densely populated areas with challenging ground conditions.

Mr Cook's report added that the budget for HS2 had proven to be "unrealistic," but the benefits of the high-speed railway had been "understated."

The HS2 spokesperson said: "[The report] examines the challenges facing the project. It sets out a rigorous cost and schedule range for delivery of the programme under its current scope.

"The assessment makes clear that HS2 remains a compelling strategic answer for Britain's future transport needs, relieving overcrowding and congestion on our roads and railways, and reducing the carbon footprint of the UK.

The project will be reviewed to assess whether it should be continued
The project will be reviewed to assess whether it should be continued. Picture: PA

"It will drive economic growth and regeneration in our regions, and bring Britain closer together.

"The assessment of Phase One is based on the significant work carried out so far, which has given us detailed insight into the scale and complexity of the programme.

The assessment of Phase 2b takes into account lessons learnt on Phase One."

HS2 is a new high-speed railway modelled on its predecessor HS1, that links London to the Channel Tunnel.

Once completed, it will link London to cities in the West Midlands and in the North and cut journey times between the capital and Birmingham by 28 minutes, travelling at speeds of up to 250mph.

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