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23.01.19

‘Nobody knows’ what final HS2 cost will be, Sir Terry Morgan says

The former chairman of HS2 has reaffirmed concerns that the project could be heavily changed after claiming “something will have to give” on the time, scope, and cost of the £56bn high-speed rail link.

Speaking to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee yesterday, Sir Terry Morgan, who quit his HS2 post and his role as chair of the delayed Crossrail project in December, said the HS2 project team may have to reduce the speed or the number of trains using the route.

When probed on what he thinks the final cost to the project will be, Sir Terry startlingly said that “nobody actually knows yet,” prompting further concerns for the budget of HS2.

“They [the HS2 project team] have a lot of work to do,” Sir Terry said, in response to Lord Forsyth’s query on overall cost.

“Nobody knows actually yet. All I’m saying to you is that the HS2 team will have the challenge of what I would describe as cost, time, and not least, scope.”

The former HS2 chair’s comments will provide little refuge from heavy doubts about the overall price tag of the major rail project, following chief executive Mark Thurston’s comments last week that HS2 could be forced to run fewer trains at lower speeds to remain in budget.

Sir Terry went on to note that the current management team is still working to the original scope of the project — 18 trains an hour at a top speed of 250mph — however said that HS2 could be looking to scale down the project.

He said: “It’s a combination of frequency and speed. That is one of the things that, inside the project team, the determination is that the scope is still being worked to as specified by government. But at the same time you won’t be surprised that one of the things that HS2 will be doing when it looks at ‘what-ifs’ – what if it wasn’t 18 trains an hour, what if it was something less an hour.

“I think the triangle of scope, cost, and time, something has to give. Something will have to give. I think the whole question about the value for money, about do we need the speed, do we need the frequency, I think is something that people will have to flex.”

Later on in the committee hearing, Sir Terry claimed that “most people regret” actually calling the project High-Speed 2.

"It is about creating capacity. Connectivity is a really strong issue, particularly when you look at the Midlands going north. It's a dreadful journey if you travel, say, from Birmingham to Leeds. It will collapse from well over two hours to around 40 minutes.”

"This whole question around connectivity, I think, is a much more important case for HS2."

Chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss warned earlier this month that HS2 could be scrapped as the government looks to prepare to “junk white elephant” projects after Brexit.

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