Workers inspect part of HS2

HS2 boss and rail minister quizzed on route and build progress

HS2 Ltd chief executive minister, Mark Thurston and rail minister Huw Merriman have provided an update on the progress of HS2.

Speaking in front of the transport committee late last week (May 19), Mr Thurston revealed that ‘great progress’ had been made since it was announced that Phase 2a and 2b were to be delayed.

Mr Thurston said: “From Curzon Street in Birmingham to Old Oak, we’re 40 percent complete, and currently on-site at three stations across the line.”

“In fact, from 2024, it will move from a civil engineering project to a railway project.”

He added that the rephasing period from Old Oak Common to Euston and the whole of the second phase from Birmingham to Manchester was also continuing.

He added: “we’re happy that the full route from Euston to Manchester is being considered and will be completed.”

The committee also quizzed Mr Thurston on some of the recent issues that had arisen recently, including the well-publicised sinkhole which had appeared on part of the route and whether he was confident that no other issues or delays would arise.

Mr Thurston said of this: “Our planning window has always been from 2029 to 2033 for the first phase. Issues will present themselves but we’ve good plans in place and a resilient team and with the momentum we have, of course issues will arise but we’re confident that the railway will happen within that window which is now published.”

The next phase of tunnelling is due to begin within the Chilterns where significant chalk deposits sit, and near the location of the current sinkhole but Mr Thurston doesn’t believe that will pose a problem. He commented that “we’ve done significant groundwork surveys, but it can’t hide from the fact that chalk and water can sometimes be volatile. The tunnelling machine itself is very sophisticated and can sense the way the geology is responding.”

Costs however are a concern according to Mr Merriman. Responding to a question from transport committee member, Paul Howell, Mr Merriman said: “We’ve got a substantial spending programme, including IRP (Integrated Rail Plan), East West Rail and other railways we’re looking to deliver.

“But costs is a real concern and Mr Thurston and I are absolutely committed to managing those costs.

“But our focus at the moment is making sure how we can control costs within HS2.”

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