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HS2 could see budget increase of £30bn

Image credit: Dreamstime

HS2 could run over budget to the tune of £30bn according to a report in the Financial Times (FT).

Allan Cook, who chairs the project, has written to the Department for Transport to warn that the original £55.7bn budget is not enough to complete the works.

He predicted the figure could escalate to somewhere between £70bn and £85bn, and a source told the FT this was due to factors including engineering costs, poor ground conditions and extra expenditure due to it being designed to run faster than other comparable rail projects.

Earlier this month. MPs criticised the project speculating that the final cost could even go above £100bn.

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis said in a Westminster Hall debate that the high cost was not worth “some jobs in Birmingham” and suggested the money could be better spent elsewhere.

HS2 is planned to run up to 18 trains per hour at a top speed of 225mph - faster than France’s high speed TGV service which currently runs at around 200mph.

A spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: “We don’t comment on leaks or speculation. We have previously noted that our chair, as you would expect, continues to scrutinise the programme, and regularly reports back to the Department.

“We are determined to deliver a railway that rebalances the economy, creates jobs, boosts economic growth and is value for money for taxpayers.”

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The chairman of HS2 Ltd is conducting detailed work into the costs and schedule of the project to ensure it delivers benefits to passengers, the economy and represents value for money for the taxpayer.

“This work is ongoing. We expect Allan Cook to provide his final assessment in due course.”

The Stop HS2 campaign said that whilst preparatory work is happening in many places, actual construction on phase one of the HS2 line has not, despite an original start date of November 2018.

They blamed this on HS2 Ltd being unable to “demonstrate the necessary capabilities to let the final contracts” where they need to show “management capability, affordability of contracts and robustness of the revised business case”.

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said: “A potential £30bn cost hike will be of no surprise to anyone who has witnessed this project lurch from one disaster to another, and whilst we are now talking about yet another cost over-run, this one is about what the whole thing was meant to cost back in 2010.

“We had been telling HS2 Ltd for years that ground conditions would hike up the costs, but they chose not to do those surveys until the project had been passed. Worse than that, it seems that only after a decade of planning are they realising that building a railway for ultra-high speed trains costs more than building one for normal trains.”

Phase 1 of HS2 is planned to run between London and Birmingham from December 2026, while a second Y-shaped phase will launch in two stages.

Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe is due to open in 2027, followed by Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds, in 2033.

HS2 trains will also serve destinations on conventional lines beyond the new high-speed network, including York, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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