Tuesday 1 October 2019 5:13 pm

Transport secretary Grant Shapps: I do not know answer to HS2 cost question

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said he doesn’t know how much the controversial High Speed Two (HS2) project currently costs.

HS2, which will link London to the north in stages, is currently subject to a review by former its former chairman Douglas Oakervee that could see the project significantly altered or even scrapped.

Read more: It would add ‘insult to injury’ if HS2 skips Euston, says Heidi Alexander

The project was originally forecast to cost £56bn based on 2015 prices, however, a review by its chairman Allan Cook found that it was more likely to cost in the region of £75-£85bn.

Speaking at a Centre for Policy Studies fringe event at the Tory party conference, Shapps said: “I know that Allan Cook, the chairman of HS2, wrote to me and said it actually might be £75bn-£85bn, and we hear rumours of people talking about £100bn. The real answer is, I don’t know the answer.”

At a separate event, chancellor Sajid Javid said there was a cost at which he would pull the plug on HS2, but declined to say what that figure was.

Read more: Minister will make ‘go, no-go’ decision on HS2 in December

Shapps said the Oakervee review, which is due to finish in the autumn, would get the project “into order” and could help the government review how it could control costs by building it in different formats, or what the cost opportunities would be of not building the railway at all.

“One of the reasons why we are perhaps seen as being poor at delivering the things that the panellists discussed is because we don’t prioritise and don’t understand…these big infrastructure projects well enough.”