In an explosive statement to the Houses of Parliament, the dire state of the HS2 timetable and budget has been revealed.
Following on from a review of the project by the current HS2 chairman (Allan Cook), Grant Shapps has made a written Parliamentary statement. However although HS2 will be massively over the current budget and take years longer, the Government will continue as currently set out.
The statement reveals the following:
- Cook suggests a new later opening date of 2028 to 2031 for Phase One – 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 later.
- Phase 2b, the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds, is to open between 2035 and 2040
- Phase 2a (Birmingham to Crewe) will have similar timing to Phase 1
- Cook doesn’t think current budget enough and suggests the total budget – including contingency – in the range of £72 to £78 billion, again in 2015 prices.
- the range set out in Allan Cook’s report is equivalent to £81 to £88 billion in 2019 prices, against a budget equivalent to £62.4 billion.
- Shapps to discuss with the Chancellor the case for updating the costs and benefits of HS2 to current prices to ensure transparency
- Cook “is of the view that the benefits of the current scheme are substantially undervalued”,
- HS2 is to continue with current preparatory works.
The original HS2 budget was £33billion, but has increased several times to £55 billion – and ministers said in July that they were “confident” of the £55bn budget.
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2, 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.
“With the acknowledgement of the delays, there is absolutely no need to continue with preparatory works while the Oakervee review is going on and we call on the Government to halt them immediately. They’ve given up the pretence that they can get it built to the original timescale, so there is no need for urgency. The damage is real, the damage is irreversible and the damage is ongoing. The only reason for continuing is to make it harder to call a halt to HS2. It’s like a slash and burn of the countryside for no reason other than to wreck it.
“When HS2 costs have gone up in the past, we’ve seen HS2 proponents make up benefits to try and counter them. But that’s no way to run a major infrastructure project. The increase in costs are real, any proposed extra benefits are nebulous and made up. Meanwhile they ignore the environmental costs of HS2, which are very real.
“We call on Boris Johnson to be the Prime Minister who cancels HS2 and looks at the real infrastructure needs of the country.”
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign manager said:
“It is now absolutely clear that parliament and the public have been callously and systematically lied to in a calculated manner over the cost and schedule of HS2 for a number of years by senior ministers. We have been lied to from start to finish. Work on the project must stop immediately.
“Its the same old story, they are still not including all the costs, but HS2 proponents are determined to make up a load of new benefits.
“We are now at the point where you really have to say what’s the point of all this. HS2 has lurched from one disaster to another, and yet no-one is prepared to put it out of its misery and cancel HS2.
Speaking of the Oakervee review, Joe Rukin added
“We have serious questions as to whether a review headed by former chair of HS2 could ever be described as independent and we worry, as happened in past when to comes to jobs, and economic benefits, that they are simply going to go away and make up some increasingly outlandish and improbable numbers to justify this white elephant. If this is to be a genuine review as to whether to go ahead or not with the project, the government must cease all works immediately, because damage to irreplaceable habitats and ancient woodland is happening as we speak. This destruction must stop now, not in a couple of weeks or months, not at Christmas, now.”
Penny Gaines added
“It’s worth emphasising just how much the costs have gone up. HS2 was originally expected to cost around £33bn. That was bad enough, and it is very difficult see how anyone can claim that spending £88 billion or more on the same project can make financial sense.”