The £56bn HS2 project linking London to the north has been dealt a further blow after the government admitted it would be subject to a 12-month delay in parliament.
Phase 2b of the project, which links Birmingham to Leeds and Crewe to Wigan and Manchester, will be delayed because the bill enabling the line to be built will not be tabled until 2020.
The government said the hold-up was to enable it to link up to the £70bn Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), also known as HS3, which aims to link major cities in the north. The NPR project was announced earlier in the year and is estimated to add £100bn to the UK economy.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT) said: "In order to maximise the huge potential of HS2, it is important to make sure it takes full account of the emerging vision for the other transformative project of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“Phase 2b of the railway will connect the great cities of the North to boost jobs, housing and economic growth, and remains on track to open in 2033.
"We will update Parliament as part of our consultation this autumn."
John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "One can only hope that this delay is another nail in the coffin of this hated project. Taxpayers may yet avoid having to pay tens upon tens of billions for out of date technology and a huge waste of cash that could be better spent on other projects, or left in taxpayers' own pockets. With Brexit and other more important challenges, the government should scrap HS2 before new technology renders is irrelevant and any more money is wasted."
Infrastructure finance consultant Martin Blaiklock said the delay was the "death knell of HS2".
"This is not just an issue for HS2 planning," he said. "With Brexit there is a significant amount of financial uncertainty and there is the parliamentary time. This is the first sign of the government admitting all is not going to plan.
Former transport minister Andrew Adonis tweeted:
Government delay of legislation for phase 2 of HS2 this week’s case of Grayling blighting everything he touches. The leaders of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Crewe, Derby, Nottingham, Liverpool, & Newcastle should be deeply concerned at this unnecessary delay— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) September 3, 2018
Lilian Greenwood, chair of the transport select committee and MP for Nottingham South, said the delay "raised further doubts over the government’s commitment and willingness to invest in the Midlands and the north".
“Ultimately, this project was meant to be the ‘great economic conduit’ for the North and part of the plans to rebalance economic growth in this country," she said. "Without HS2 Phase 2b, the potential transformation to connectivity across the Midlands and to the great cities of the North and Scotland will be lost. The line is scheduled to open in 2033 and rail passengers, local authorities, MPs and businesses will require reassurance that the timetable will not slip.
“Serious cost concerns are raised – ministers must be upfront with us about where the finances of this project stand and provide reassurances that they won’t derail the full scope of this project.
“The government needs to be more transparent about why this decision has been made. It’s a poor show that MPs and the public are finding out through a third-party. The secretary of state needs to come to Parliament to explain the situation to MPs as soon as possible.”
Last week it was revealed that the £15.4bn Elizabeth Line would also be delayed, instead opening in Autumn next year instead of December this year.