The first phase of the HS2 high-speed railway between London and the North will be delayed by up to five years and cost an extra £23 billion, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said.
Mr Shapps’ statement was based on a report from the chairman of HS2, Allan Cook, which concluded that the new railway could not be delivered within the current budget or timeframe. His report comes ahead of a government decision on whether HS2 will go ahead at all.
Mr Cook said the delay had occurred because the original plans did not account for the effect of building through densely-populated areas with difficult geographical features.
The first phase of the service, which will go between London and Birmingham, was scheduled for completion in 2026. However, Mr Cook has suggested it could bet 2031 before the high-speed line is ready to run. While the service between London and Manchester, may not be ready until 2040.
The chairman also said that he didn’t believe the design could be completed within the budget of £55.7 billion, which was set in 2015. Instead, he estimates the scheme will require (including contingency) between £72 and £78 billion.
This comes after the government announced last month that it planned to review the costs and benefits of the rail project, with the promise of a ‘go or no-go’ decision by the end of the year. It has also said that construction work will continue while the review is ongoing.
As a result, business and political leaders from the across the North have joined together to launch a campaign to highlight the importance of full delivery of the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) services for people in the North.
A spokesman for Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM) said the campaign, Connecting Britain, will allow them to speak with ‘one, united voice and will underline the importance of the full delivery of both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR)’ for communities throughout the North of England.
Coinciding with the HS2 Economic Growth Conference taking place today and tomorrow in Leeds, the campaign says that the North is overdue major investment into transport infrastructure and that a lack of investment is holding productivity back.
Connecting Britain argues that transforming connectivity from the Midlands to the North, will help support economic growth, improve productivity, boost jobs and skills, increase prosperity and support a transition to a low-carbon economy.
Launching the campaign, Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council and campaign partner of Connecting Britain said:
“A green light on HS2 and NPR in full would be a clear signal from the government that it recognises that historic underinvestment in strategic transport infrastructure outside London is a trend that must be reversed if all communities are to be levelled-up and regions rebalanced.
“We will work with the government and the Oakervee Review into HS2, to demonstrate the strength of the economic case for the full and timely delivery of HS2 fully integrated with NPR and other complementary infrastructure schemes in the North and Midlands.
“For the North, it’s not either HS2 or NPR, it’s both.”
In support of the campaign, Clive Memmott, Chief Executive of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said:
“HS2 and NPR combined will bring huge opportunities to business across the North and indeed the whole of the UK. Together they will free-up labour markets, grow jobs and play a fundamental role in helping deliver our economic potential.
“If HS2, NPR, or their integration, is scrapped or de-scoped, this opportunity would be put under threat. The UK’s growth potential, as well as a real investment being made now by businesses in skills and infrastructure to prepare for and make the most of a transformation in connectivity, would be lost.”
Also published on Medium.