Ministers are set to delay development of key sections of the HS2 rail line, with an announcement anticipated imminently outlining the extent of funds overruns amid hovering inflation.
It’s understood that components of the high-speed community between Crewe and Birmingham are prone to be delayed or trimmed, whereas full working of trains into London Euston may additionally be held off additional.
A minimum of £2bn extra can be wanted for the primary London-Birmingham stretch alone for the reason that final official replace in October, effectively above the contingency sums within the preliminary £44.6bn funding, casting doubt over prospects for the complete community’s supply.
Whereas the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, and Downing Avenue reiterated in January that the federal government would construct the road between London Euston and Manchester, the Division for Transport has been beneath mounting strain to search out price financial savings from HS2 – or let different, non-HS2 rail funding initiatives lapse.
Ministers have repeated their dedication to a high-level £96bn rail plan drawn up final yr, however much less is prone to be constructed for that cash than initially anticipated.
HS2 Ltd and the DfT have been engaged on cost-saving choices beneath two tightly guarded initiatives, entitled Mission Silverlight and Operation Blue Diamond. The transport secretary, Mark Harper, is predicted to ship the information in an announcement to MPs as we speak.
Though delays have lengthy been acknowledged to have elevated the eventual general price of infrastructure initiatives corresponding to HS2, the present financial local weather and Treasury strain is main ministers to contemplate deferring components of the scheme.
The completion of the road into London Euston may very well be knocked additional again till the 2040s, with insiders suggesting that the London terminus isn’t required till the road to Manchester is open.
Beneath the final introduced schedule, London-Manchester trains will begin to run a while between 2035 and 2041, however that timescale may very well be pushed again but additional, doubtlessly by one other 4 years.
Initially, the road will run to a brand new Previous Oak Frequent station in west London, regardless of the widespread demolition and years of preparatory work already performed across the eventual Euston terminus.
A lot of section 1 of HS2, London to Birmingham, is effectively beneath manner, with 5 of 10 tunnelling machines already underground in Warwickshire, London and Buckinghamshire. Half the Chiltern tunnels have been dug and vital work accomplished on the controversial Colne Valley viaduct, reducing via the regional park west of London.
Senior civil servants and ministers warned the Commons transport choose committee in January that “powerful choices” could be wanted, doubtlessly placing different rail – and even wider transport initiatives – on maintain if HS2 was backed.
HS2’s unique japanese leg to Leeds – formally beneath evaluate somewhat than fully cancelled – is not in its funds. An undetermined “high-speed line” from Birmingham to Sheffield stays on the desk, however trimmed and subsumed into the federal government’s £96bn built-in rail plan. That remaining stump of HS2 East, made up of observe enhancements and restricted stretches of latest line, seems to be one of the crucial weak spending initiatives.
A key a part of the section 2b works linking Crewe to Manchester, the Golborne hyperlink, which might have enabled quicker onward trains to Scotland, was axed final yr to save lots of as much as £3bn.
Earlier this week, Labour repeated pledges to construct HS2 and “northern powerhouse” rail in full – however Harper prevented making comparable commitments. In a speech to Transport for the North in Newcastle on Monday, he instructed delegates that the federal government was sticking to the £96bn rail plan, including: “Simple guarantees to get applause at occasions and conferences like this across the nation are usually not credible if folks don’t have plans to pay for them.”
The DfT’s funds was frozen from 2025 within the autumn spending evaluate, which means a doubtlessly vital minimize in actual phrases.
A DfT spokesperson stated: “Spades are already within the floor on the HS2 mission and we stay dedicated to constructing the road from Euston to Manchester.”