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More delays likely

Rising costs of HS2 may see line upgrades in north

HS2 train

Off track: costs of the project have doubled

Soaring costs of building HS2 may mean a delay in the second phase while alternative links are examined.

A new estimate puts the cost of the high speed line at £106 billion – almost double the £56bn estimate in 2015.

The first stretch of line between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026, with the second phase to Leeds and Manchester expected to be completed by 2032-33.

A government-commissioned review now says conventional lines could help link Birmingham with cities in the north, according to a report in the FT.

The spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, will publish another report about HS2 in the coming days.

Claire Walker, co-executive director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, described the latest costs as “quite concerning”.

She said: “Business communities are united that this project should be delivered and should be delivered in full. There is no project that has been proposed that will go so far in delivering the transformational change to the Northern business communities as this project will.

However she added that “no government project should receive a blank cheque”.

On Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a decision on whether to go ahead with the project would be made “very soon”. It is understood the review, led by former HS2 chairman Doug Oakervee, recommends the government should proceed with the project.

About £8bn has already been spent on the project, which will connect London, the Midlands and northern England using trains capable of travelling at 250mph.

Stagecoach goes to court

Rail and bus operator Stagecoach is taking the government to the High Court where it will argue ministers acted unlawfully in awarding rail franchises.

Last year, Stagecoach and its partners were barred from bidding to run three franchises in a row over pension liabilities.

Rail firms face an estimated £7.5bn pensions gap and Stagecoach says it was asked to take on too big a burden.

The Perth-based company alleges that the Department for Transport mismanaged the bid process.

It is seeking compensation, as well as a judicial review, which could see franchises already awarded being declared invalid.

The DfT said it had “total confidence” in the franchise competition process and would “robustly defend” the decisions that were taken.



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