HS2 faces seven-year delay as costs expected to spiral £22bn over budget

3 Sep 19

HS2 could cost as much as £88bn and faces a seven-year delay, transport secretary Grant Shapps told parliament in a statement today.

Shapps told MPs the chairman of the company behind the project, Allan Cook, had said to him it was “unrealistic” to expect Phase One (from London to Birmingham) to be open by the target year of 2026, and he now expects it to open instead by 2031.

Phase Two (from Crewe to Manchester and Leeds), first planned for 2033, might not be ready until as late as 2040, he added.

Shapps also said that Cook had warned the current budget of £55.7bn (in 2015 prices) was insufficient, and that the scheme will now require a budget of between £72bn and £78bn (in 2015 prices) – which is up to £88bn in today’s prices.

The statement comes less than a month after prime minister Boris Johnson announced a review into HS2 to decide “whether and how we proceed” with the project.

According to the Department for Transport, the review will consider HS2’s benefits, affordability, deliverability and phasing.

Shapps said his statement will have no effect on the review, and has authorised HS2 Ltd to continue working on the project.

Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect, said it was “encouraging” that work would continue, and outlined his full backing for the project.

He said: “Although any delay is very disappointing, this is a project we will all benefit from for the next hundred years and more. It’s well worth waiting for.

“Decades from now, when our grandchildren look back at the investment we made in their future, they won’t be concerned with the exact year in which it opened.”

Shapps’ statement came on the same day that a group of environmental organisations including Greenpeace and The Woodland Trust placed full-page adverts in the national press calling for HS2 works to be halted immediately.

The groups, under the collective name of Rethink HS2, warned that 108 “ancient woodlands” and “hundreds of other precious wildlife sites” would be destroyed or damaged if the project continues on its current planned route.

A decision by the government is expected by the end of the autumn.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “The timescales for HS2 need to reflect the needs here in the North, and any delay in delivering proposed infrastructure in the Northern Powerhouse will be of concern to businesses here which support it.” 

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