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Rail project scrutinised

HS2 in doubt as Shapps orders review amid escalating costs

HS2 train

HS2 promises a new era in rail travel

The future of the high-speed rail link connecting the north with London has been thrown into doubt after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ordered a review into its spiralling costs.

In July, the chairman of the project warned that the total bill could rise by £30 billion on top of the current budget of £56bn.

A “go or no-go” decision will be made on HS2 by the end of the year, said Mr Shapps who refused to rule out scrapping the project entirely.

He said it was “responsible” to see whether HS2 was “going to stack up”.

Phase 1 of the development between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026, with the second phase to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33. It is designed to carry trains capable of travelling at 250mph.

The review will be chaired by Douglas Oakervee, a civil engineer who served as chairman of the Crossrail project between 2005 and 2009.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the Conservative Party leadership campaign that he had  “anxieties about the business case”.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, expressed concern at Mr Shapps’ review.

“There is a strong economic case for delivering all phases of HS2,” he said. “For far too long businesses across the UK have had to cope with heavily congested Victorian-era railways – with passengers and freight traffic vying for priority. Businesses count the cost of this in delayed journeys, overcrowded trains, uncertain deliveries and unreliable services. 

“By delivering new, dedicated express routes between cities, HS2 will provide much-needed capacity to Britain’s rail network and free up space for local and freight services on existing lines.  The delivery of other transformational schemes, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, rely on the connections that HS2 will make. 

“HS2’s importance goes far beyond train services. Its anticipated completion is already attracting investors and will continue to attract investment to surrounding areas, rejuvenate local economies and create opportunities for businesses across the supply chain. 

“While no project should have a blank cheque, business communities across the UK will be concerned about the potential for further delays to HS2. This review must work at pace with our business communities to improve and hone this crucial infrastructure project, which is so important to business confidence.” 

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, said the Government is “going down the wrong track”.

However, he said he was confident the review would highlight the “golden opportunity” HS2 presents and why it should be extended as far as cities in Scotland.

Manuel Cortes said: “The Government is going down the wrong track with this review. However, I’d urge Mr Oakervee to consider first and foremost the vast economic, social and environmental benefits of HS2.

“This is a golden opportunity – using a clean and green scheme – to put rocket boosters under regional economies across the country, create thousands of additional jobs and better connect cities.

“HS2 is an essential pillar of our country’s modernisation and will be vital in assisting local authorities and business in the rebalancing of Britain’s economy.

“We need HS2 to run the length of Britain – from London to Scotland – delivering 21st Century transport links which will reboot our economy beyond the south east.

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