UK Government Announces Delayed Delivery of HS2

The UK Transport Secretary has announced delays to the delivery of HS2.

Citing “inflationary pressures and to help balance the nation’s books”, the government will now during the next two years “rephase” construction work on the project to “optimise future delivery” of the Phase 2a, the leg between Birmingham and Crewe.

Following this rephasing period, the government said it would then proceed with delivering the high-speed rail service to Crewe and the North West.

Another area where the government is seeking to cut immediate costs is at Euston, HS2’s terminus in London.

Artists impression of an HS2 train
Artist’s impression of an HS2 train

To date, over 20 billion GBP has been spent on Phase 1 of HS2 to enable high-speed rail services to run between new stations at Old Oak Common in London and Curzon Street in Birmingham.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

“We know the power of transport as an engine for sustainable economic growth. [...]

“But we can’t ignore the current realities. Putin’s war in Ukraine has hiked up inflation, sending supply chain costs rocketing. The responsible decisions I’ve outlined today will ensure we balance the budget at the same time as investing record sums in our transport network to help halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt.”

Furthermore, plans to deliver on the commitments made in the Integrated Rail Plan to develop HS2 East between the West and East Midlands and Leeds remain ambiguous while the government “considers the most effective way to take HS2 trains to Leeds”.

The High Speed Rail Group issued a statement:

“The High Speed Rail Group is alarmed by today’s news that sections of HS2 will be delayed. The delay at Euston in favour of Old Oak Common coupled with the delay between Birmingham and Crewe by two years will not save money and will only add to the total cost of the project.

“Without clear timings on delivery between Crewe and the North West, millions will only be left behind again. The cheapest way to deliver HS2 is quickly.

“Constant uncertainty in Government breeds uncertainty in industry which does nothing to ensure efficient delivery.”

RIA, the Railway Industry Association, was equally dismayed, pointing out that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had expressed his commitment to delivering HS2 as recently as November 2022.

RIA's Chief Executive Darren Caplan said:

“This was welcome news following the scrapping of both the Eastern Leg from Leeds to Birmingham, and the cancellation of the Golborne Link, to enable high speed trains to get from the Northern Leg of HS2 to Scotland. [...]

“This stop-start approach is an inefficient use of taxpayers' money, and could ultimately drive the project's costs up, which is the opposite of what the Government is trying to do.”

HS2 was not the only project to take a hit. The government put two road schemes back on the shelf and cut its active travel budget by two thirds: 845 million GBP was approved in the 2021 Spending Review, with 273 million GBP having been spent to date. A further 119 million GBP is to be spent over the next two years, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said, suggesting, in effect, a cut of 452 million GBP.

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