HS2

01.04.19

Funding sign-off for first half of HS2 construction delayed by ministers

Ministers have delayed signing off on the first half of funding for HS2 over concerns about the flagship rail project’s spiralling costs.

A formal ‘notice to proceed’ on the major construction works for the first phase of the project was due to be issued in June, but this now been put back by six months, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The order would have unlocked up to £27bn for the first phase of HS2, but ministers have reportedly not allowed the firm to enter into agreements with contractors based on the current design and cost.

The Sunday Telegraph quoted a Whitehall source who said the delay came after Chris Grayling made it “very clear to HS2” that they must stick to the project’s £56bn budget.

The source said the line was “crucial” to providing the transport capacity the country needs, but HS2 has faced growing criticism in recent months, including from Conservative leadership contenders Boris Johnson, David Davis, Andrea Leadsom and Liz Truss.

Rising costs around construction and land acquisition have been widely reported for months now, and the government has faced calls to scrap HS2 altogether.

Reports earlier this year said that HS2 could be forced to run fewer train and at slower speeds to keep within budget, and critics say the rail project is a waste of money, and could be better spent improving the existing network.

HS2’s supporters argue the project will create more than 30,000 jobs and will cut intercity journey time between 25 stations, connecting around 30 million people.

The DfT has insisted that HS2 is “happening”, with Theresa May reaffirming her support for HS2 in its entirety from London up to Manchester and Leeds.

“The project is already underway with more than 7,000 people and 2,000 businesses working on building what will become the backbone of Britain’s rail network,” the DfT said.

Around £27bn has been allocated to Phase One between London and Birmingham, with the rest allocated to the lines up to Manchester and Leeds.

HS2 has been carrying out cost cutting studies in a bid to streamline the project and reduce construction costs, but it is not known whether the delay to the notice to proceed will influence the planned 2026 opening date of Phase One.

Image credit - Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images

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