HS2 may not be fully completed until 2040, while costs on the project have risen by some £20 billion, according to the company’s chair Allan Cook.
The Government has released a ‘stocktake’ report from Mr Cook along with a written statement from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who has said there is ‘no future in obscuring the true costs of a large infrastructure project – as well as the potential benefits’.
Mr Cook’s report recommends a phased opening for Phase One of the route between 2028 and 2031, at least two years later than the proposed 2026 opening for the London to Birmingham route. This would see services initially run between Old Oak Common in west London and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed later by services into a rebuilt Euston station. Phase 2a, from the West Midlands to Crewe, is recommended to be delivered to the same timetable as Phase One, while Phase 2b comprising the Crewe to Manchester section and the eastern leg via the East Midlands and South Yorkshire to Leeds is expected to open between 2035 and 2040.
In terms of cost, Mr Cook suggests that at 2015 prices the total budget for the scheme should be between £72 and £78 billion, up from the previous £55.7 billion estimate. In his statement Mr Shapps resets these figures to 2019 prices adjusted by construction cost inflation, according to which the previous budget equivalent of £62.4 billion has risen to an estimate of between £81 to £88 billion.
The statement and report follow the Government’s confirmation on 21 August of the cross-party review into HS2 led by Douglas Oakervee to examine whether and how the programme should proceed. Mr Shapps said the review would report this autumn and that its findings would be discussed with the Prime Minister and Chancellor prior to a decision on next steps. In the meantime, Mr Shapps says he has authorised HS2 to continue current works on the project, which will ‘ensure we are ready to proceed without further delay for the main construction stage of Phase One in the event that the Government chooses to continue’.