HS2 costs could spiral to £106bn

Marco Green
January 23, 2020

Envisaged as the backbone of Britain's national transport network, the 345 miles of new high-speed track is created to slash journey times with the type of rail service that is already enjoyed by other major countries.

The Review by former HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee should have been published at the end of previous year, but it has been delayed, along with the "root and branch" review of the wider railway industry which has been carried out by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams for the Department for Transport.

It warned of a "considerable risk" that the project price could blowout from the most recent estimate of £81bn - £88bn.

The report, seen by the Financial Times, has also called for work on the link from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds to be put on hold for six months to explore whether it could be made up of a mix of standard and high-speed rail.

The latest report follows an earlier leak last November of the government-backed Oakervew review, recommending that HS2 should go-ahead in full, building the full Y-shaped line, which would create two lines north of Birmingham - one to Manchester and the other to Leeds.

So how does HS2 now fit into the grand plan for economic growth outside London?

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham described the leak as "quite worrying" and claimed that using conventional lines in the North would be a "second-class option".

The chief executives of Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Morgan Sindall were among the signatories to a letter to Boris Johnson, seen by The Times, which urged him to approve the scheme and noted that it would take "many years to get an equivalent pipeline of work in place" if HS2 was cancelled.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director, Henri Murison added: "Clearly we will have to wait to see if this leak is genuine.

HS2 must go ahead and be built through to Scotland".

"Any further delay or downgrades of the project will send the wrong message to the people of our region, but it will also send the wrong message to foreign investors who see Britain as an opportunity for growth after Brexit".

The controversial project providing a faster rail link between the capital and the north of England was allocated £56bn in 2015.

The first leg of the project, from London's Euston station to Birmingham, was due to open by the end of 2026 but could be pushed back until 2031.

Phase 2B is basically the majority of the top of the "Y" of the HS2 route map, linking the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds.

He continued: 'I've always approached this from a relatively neutral point of view and that information will help to inform a decision that is best for the whole country.

Mr Johnson is expected to make a decision soon on the future of the project after he slammed the "spiralling costs" during his leadership campaign.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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