Building HS2 could cost up to £106bn, according to a leaked government-commissioned review that reportedly outlines a 20 per cent rise in costs to the UK infrastructure project.
The review into the controversial high-speed rail link project warns of “considerable risk” that costs could balloon further from HS2’s original budget of £32.7bn.
The government has already spent £8bn on the scheme to connect London, the Midlands and the north of England with fast trains.
But the review reportedly advises the government to hit the pause button on a second phase of the project due to connect Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. Instead it suggests the government consider conventional train lines to link those cities.
Former HS2 chairman Doug Oakervee led the as-yet unpublished review into the scheme. It recommends the government presses on with the project, the FT reported, despite admitting it is “hard” to say what economic benefits will result from building it.
The review also recommends accompanying the project with local transport investment. “Transport investment alone will not ‘rebalance’ the UK economy,” it adds.
Days after the leak, 15 Tory MPs from across the country are preparing to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week to raise urgent concerns about the project. Some are set to urge the PM to drop the scheme, according to the BBC.
Johnson himself has warned against costs getting out of control. But he has also suggested he would be in favour of an infrastructure project that rebalances the UK’s economy away from London.
He is expected to make a decision on whether the project goes ahead in the coming weeks.
HS2 chairman Allan Cook warned in September that the cost of HS2 has risen to between £81bn and £88bn. The £106bn price tag is the calculation made by Michael Byng, an infrastructure consultant who contributed to the review.
The National Audit Office is set to publish another report about HS2’s costs in the coming days.
If it does continue, HS2’s London to Birmingham link is set to open at the end of 2026, while the Leeds to Manchester line is scheduled for 2032-33. The London to Birmingham route would take just 52 minutes to travel, compared to a current one hour 21 minutes.
Businesses urge PM to complete HS2
Businesses today pushed the government to follow through on the project, which is costing a reported £250m per week.
“Business communities are united that this project should be delivered and should be delivered in full,” British Chambers of Commerce’s co-executive director, Claire Walker, told the BBC.
“There is no project that has been proposed that will go so far in delivering the transformational change to the Northern business communities as this project will.”