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HS2 budget to be reviewed

Sir David Higgins must find ways to drive down the cost of HS2, the Prime Minister is to urge. As incoming chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Sir David will review the £42.6bn project ahead of the second reading of the Hybrid Bill.

Better planning and early engagement with the industry could deliver the project faster and more cheaply, Cameron will suggest. Sir David is also to consider how to ensure HS2 delivers jobs and growth.

In a speech at the CBI’s annual conference, Cameron will call for national unity on HS2, and accuse opponents of a lack of vision. Last week, Labour reiterated that there will be “no blank cheque” for HS2.

Cameron is expected to say: “Britain is in a global race for jobs and wealth. Our infrastructure is decades out of date and we urgently need to invest and build. Those who want to delay or obstruct HS2 show a lack of vision. They are playing politics with Britain’s prosperity.

“Britain has shown it can build great infrastructure like HS1 or the Olympics on time and on budget. And with Sir David Higgins in charge – the man who built the Olympics – we will do that for the north-south line too.”

Also addressing the conference, shadow chancellor Ed Balls will say: “We will take a hard-headed look at the costs and benefits of the scheme to ensure this is the best way to spend £50bn for the future of our country.

“As chancellor, I would be a strong advocate for infrastructure investment. And I believe the government should be acting now to bring forward that long-term investment, as the IMF has also argued.

“But the chancellor should never simply become a cheerleader for any particular project. Building a consensus about long-term infrastructure does not mean turning a blind eye to value for money.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Sir David Higgins, currently chief executive of Network Rail, was appointed as the new chairman of HS2 Ltd because of his world class record on infrastructure delivery. As chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority he ensured the UK Olympic Park was built on time and on budget.

“That is why I have commissioned Sir David in his new role to report to me by March on how the HS2 project can be brought in under budget and how it can best maximise the benefits for all parts of the country‎.

“The new north-south line is essential to free up capacity on the existing rail network and bring economic growth to the whole of the country, but I want to ensure that we get these benefits at the best price not any price.”

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