Future of HS2 in doubt as leaked document claims it is 'unachievable'

Future of HS2 in doubt as watchdog report claims project is ‘unachievable’ with leaked document suggesting Euston plans alone could result in £1billion overspend

  • Infrastructure and Projects Authority said HS2’s viability may need reassessing

The future of the High Speed 2 railway (HS2) is in doubt after a report warned the ‘successful delivery’ of the multi-billion-pound project ‘appears to be unachievable’.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) slapped a ‘red’ rating on plans for the construction of the first two phases of the rail line – London to Birmingham and to Crewe in Cheshire. 

This rating, the watchdog said, means ‘there are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable.’

The Telegraph reports that it concluded that the troubled project, which has already surged tens of billions over budget, ‘may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed.’

Meanwhile, a leaked document also raised concerns over the project’s Euston terminal plans, suggesting that they would result in a £1billion overspend even after being stripped back.

A worker stands at the HS2 site at Euston Station in London. A leaked document has raised concerns about overspend on the terminal

It comes after the chief executive of HS2 resigned amid major delays and cost pressures for the railway project earlier this month.

Mark Thurston, 56, will leave his role in September after six-and-a-half years leading the Government-owned company in a £617,000-a-year role.

He said someone else should take over as the scheme transitions from construction to a ‘defining period’ involving the installation of railway systems, such as track and signalling equipment. 

The IPA’s assessement of the problems facing the beleaguered line will mean questions over its future are mounting.

The project was given the go-ahead by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020 despite costs having swelled from £42.6 billion when legislation for it was first approved to more than £100 billion. 

Now funds set aside for the London Euston terminal are expected to shoot past the £2.6billion set aside for it, a document seen by The Telegraph is said to have shown.

HS2 Ltd has reportedly been told to look into drastically reducing costs for the scheme. 

The Department for Transport has said ‘spades are already in the ground’ for the rail line project. Pitcured: Image shows an early representation of what the HS2 trains could look like

Greg Smith, the Conservative MP for Buckingham, told the paper that whatever the solution at Euston, it will still need to prove value for money for taxpayers.

‘To come up with a half-baked Euston… is just spending more and more taxpayers’ money… on something that isn’t going to work,’ said Mr Smith.

He added that ‘without a decent central London station … which Euston was identified [as], there’s just no point in high-speed rail, full stop.

‘The time you gain is lost when you leave the train at Old Oak Common in west London and have to battle your way into central.’

HS2 was expected to cost between £72billion and £98billion pounds at 2019 prices.

An aerial view shows the site of the Birmingham High Speed Railway construction site at Curzon Street in Birmingham

However, since then the bill has been pushed up by inflation – which ran at around 18 per cent in the construction industry last year, affecting materials like timber, steel and concrete. 

This means that the true cost of the scheme is expected to be far higher.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘Spades are already in the ground on HS2, with 350 construction sites, over £20bn invested to date and supporting over 28,500 jobs. We remain committed to delivering HS2 in the most cost-effective way for taxpayers.

‘HS2 will bring transformational benefits for generations to come, improving connections and helping grow the economy.’

HS2 Ltd has also been contacted for comment. 

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