Earlier this month, Grant Shapps (Secretary of State for Transport) provided an update on the HS2 project, and he highlighted the fact that in August the Government instigated an independent cross-party review into whether and how HS2 should proceed.
The review panel will consider the project’s affordability, deliverability, benefits, scope and phasing — including its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail — and will report back to Mr Shapps this autumn.
Mr Shapps said: “HS2 is the single largest project of this Government.
“One important aspect of the panel’s work is to consider whether both the costs and the benefits of the scheme have been correctly identified. HS2’s business case has been founded on increasing capacity on our constrained rail network, improving connectivity, and stimulating economic growth and regeneration.
“The current budget was established in 2013 and later adjusted to 2015 prices. Since that time, significant concerns have been raised.”
He went on to say that the recently appointed chairman of HS2 Ltd — Allan Cook — does not believe that the current scheme design can be delivered within the budget of £55.7 billion (set at 2015 prices).
“Instead, he estimates that the current scheme requires a total budget — including contingency — in the range of £72-78 billion (again at 2015 prices).
“Regarding schedules, Mr Cook does not believe that the current schedule of 2026 for initial services on Phase One is realistic.
“In line with lessons from other major transport infrastructure projects, his advice proposes a range of dates for the start of service.
“He recommends 2028 to 2031 for Phase One, with a staged opening.
“This will start with initial services between London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed by services to and from London Euston later.
“He expects Phase 2b — the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds — to open between 2035 and 2040.
“He has also suggested that Phase 2a — West Midlands to Crewe — could be delivered to the same timetable as Phase 1, subject to Parliamentary approval.
“Finally, he is of the view that the benefits of the current scheme are substantially under-valued. HS2 Ltd continues to refine its estimates of cost, benefits and schedule, and all these will be considered within the scope of the review being led by Douglas Oakervee.
“I said when I announced the independent review into HS2 that I want Mr Oakervee and his panel to assess these findings from the chairman of HS2 Ltd and other available evidence.
“The review will provide independent recommendations on whether and how we proceed with the project.
“During the short period in which the independent review completes its work, I have authorised HS2 Ltd to continue the current works that are taking place on the project.
“This will ensure that we are ready to proceed without further delay for the main construction stage of Phase 1 in the event that the Government chooses to continue.”