HS2 to be delayed by up to five years

Date published: 06 September 2019

The first phase of the HS2 high-speed railway between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, the government has announced, following a report by the HS2 Ltd chair, Allan Cook.

High Speed 2 (HS2) is the proposed new high-speed railway directly connecting Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London, funded by UK taxpayers. HS2 is being designed to operate initially at 360 kilometres per hour, faster than any other train in the world.

Two new HS2 tracks to Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly are expected to create space for additional train paths on the corridors to Crewe and Stockport, providing options for more frequent local or regional services. 

Phase one, the section between London and Birmingham, was due to open at the end of 2026, but could now be between 2028 and 2031, with a staged opening, starting with initial services between London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed by services to and from London Euston.

The second phase, from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, has also been delayed.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, told parliament completion of the full northern section of HS2, to Manchester and Leeds, would probably be pushed back by seven years to 2040.

Mr Shapps’ statement comes based on the findings of Mr Cook’s report, which has claimed the new railway cannot be delivered within the current budget.

At today’s prices, HS2 is now expected to cost between £81 and £88 billion, up from the official £55.7 billion at 2015 prices. 

The findings follow a government announcement on 21 August that an independent review into HS2 will take place.

The review, led by Douglas Oakervee, a retired engineer who briefly chaired HS2 Ltd, will inform the government’s decisions on next steps for the project. Limited, largely preparatory works, on the project will continue in parallel with the report’s work.

Work will continue on HS2 whilst the review is undertaken.

Responding to the news that HS2 could cost more and take longer to build that previously thought, Tom Thackray, Director of Infrastructure at the CBI, which represents over 190,000 businesses across the UK, said: “HS2 promises to bring huge economic benefits across the country so the announcement of the delay is disappointing. But the message from business on the project remains consistent – build it, back it, benefit from it.

“Of course, the report may be a clarion call for those anti-HS2 voices but businesses believe derailing the scheme would be a significant economic restraint on the Midlands and The North.”

In contrast, Penny Gaines, Chair of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: “It’s been clear to anyone watching that HS2 Ltd have been in major trouble for some time. They couldn’t stick to the budget, and the supposed opening date has remained unchanged whilst the start of construction has been repeatedly put back time again, and there is still no sign of Notice to Proceed which will enable HS2 to start actual building work.

“What’s clear from Grant Shapps’ statement is the very dire state of the HS2 project, just a couple of months after Government ministers were claiming the budget and schedule were fine. 

“We call on Boris Johnson to be the Prime Minister who cancels HS2 and looks at the real infrastructure needs of the country.”

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