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HS2 backed despite spiralling cost in leaked report

By Richard Guttridge | Transport | Published:

HS2 should go ahead with only minor alterations, a draft review of the line has said.

Artist's impression of an HS2 high-speed train

Boris Johnson ordered a review of the high-speed line earlier this year but experts have recommended it continue largely as planned.

The draft review said the cost of the project could spiral even further than the current price of £88bn.

Minor changes could include reducing the number of trains per hour from 18 to 14, which is in line with other high-speed networks around the world.

Part of the HS2 line will cut through Staffordshire to form the West Midlands to Crewe section of the track.

The early draft of the report stated that the high-speed railway could boost cities in the north and Midlands more than London due to better connections on intercity routes.

It also claimed there are no “shovel-ready” alternative schemes to raise capacity on the existing railway, and “large ticket price rises” will be needed to discourage peak-time travel unless it is built.

But the review, led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee, warned that the project’s latest cost estimate of £88 billion is expected to increase further.

The review was launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in August. It was due to be completed this autumn, but the deadline was delayed amid the General Election.

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Red herrings

The high-speed line was initially planned to launch in 2026, but a recent report by HS2 Ltd stated that this could be pushed back until 2031.

Current designs involve a second Y-shaped phase launching in two stages - Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe followed by phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds.

Campaign groups who want HS2 to be scrapped have responded angrily to the leaked report.

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Penny Gaines, chair of the campaign Stop HS2, said: "HS2 was a bad project when it was originally announced and was supposed to cost £33 billion, it was a bad project when it was supposed to cost £55 billion, and it is a bad project now the cost is expected to be more than £88billion.

"It should be cancelled as soon as possible, so the government can focus on the real transport priorities.”

Harry Fone, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "This review is in danger of becoming a one-sided stitch up, resorting to old red herrings to keep plans to push ahead with HS2 on track.

"Despite admitting that the budget will have to increase yet again, as the official cost creeps ever nearer to £100 billion, it seems Mr Oakervee has chosen to go over old arguments rather than ask if this project really represents good value for taxpayers.

"With a likely cost-benefit ratio of less than one, the Prime Minister would do well to scrap this white elephant and use the money to fund big investment in regional transport projects instead."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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