HS2 completion timetable "unrealistic", says National Audit Office

William Turvill
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The HS2 project has faced much opposition from protesters (Source: Getty)

The Department for Transport set an “unrealistic timetable” for the completion of High Speed 2 (HS2), the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

A report out today says the 2026 target for the opening of phase one of HS2 is “at risk despite good progress with some major procurements”.

Read more: Why peers must press for a rethink on HS2 into Euston

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “HS2 is a large, complex and ambitious programme which is facing cost and time pressures.

“The unrealistic timetable set for HS2 by the department means they are not as ready to deliver as they hoped to be at this point.

“The department now needs to get the project working to a timescale that is achievable.”

Read more: Does Britain have a problem with big infrastructure projects?

Transport minister Robert Goodwill said: “HS2 is on track and the National Audit Office agrees. We have strong cross party support and are on schedule to gain the powers needed to start building HS2, which the NAO acknowledges is a significant achievement.”

He added:

We are on course to start construction next year and complete the scheme on time and budget. HS2 Ltd is letting major engineering contracts creating jobs for British businesses, construction of the National College for High Speed Rail sites are underway and the route to Crewe will open six years earlier than planned.

Our plan is to connect the West Midlands and London with high speed rail by 2026. We are also fully committed to taking HS2 to Manchester and Leeds and will make a decision on this part of the route in the autumn. Sir David Higgins will also give us his recommendations on the route through south Yorkshire shortly allowing this vital part of the project to move forward.

Last month, an academic study pointed out that HS2 could be up to five times more expensive than its French equivalent.

HS2 is conceived as a “transformational” rail project linking London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, via 400km/h trains running on a dedicated twin track.

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