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Decision on HS2 delayed until after election

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The outcome of the independent review into High Speed 2 (HS2) is expected to be delayed until after the General Election on 12 December, reports claim

Launched in August, a ‘go or no-go’ decision on the future of the £88 billion rail line had been anticipated in the autumn with an initial report from review chair Doug Oakervee to the Department for Transport (DfT) pencilled in for mid-October.

However, reports in the press suggest Oakervee’s findings have still not been made available to the government and that no decision will be made until after the election.

According to Tony Berkeley, the deputy chairman of the official review into the high-speed rail scheme, the report remains unfinished and will be kept under wraps until a new secretary of state is in place. 

Berkeley, the Labour peer and chairman of the Rail Freight Group, wrote on Twitter: ’Report not finished and no opportunity to influence conclusions. We are told that, when completed by Doug [Oakervee] and the DfT secretariat, it will be locked into the DfT vaults for the new S of S to publish.’

Despite the uncertainty, HS2 said design work would continue on the massive project.

Last week Moxon Architects revealed its designs for two new viaducts for the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty south of Aylesbury – the 450m-long Wendover Dean viaduct and the 315m-long Small Dean viaduct 1.2km to the north.

An HS2 spokesperson said: ’The government has been very clear to us that they don’t want to see any delay [to the construction programme] as a result of the Oakervee Review.

‘It’s business as usual. Design work is continuing, demolitions and site clearance are progressing and we’re hard at work setting up site compounds. The only thing delayed is ancient woodland clearance.’

Although the super-fast train link was provisionally costed at £56 billion, a recent stocktaking exercise undertaken by HS2 chair Allan Cook put the budget at nearer £88 billion. 

Additions to the cost include a further £8 billion to correct under-estimated property values and well as a potential £3 billion for additional electricity infrastructure to power the new railway. 

However, railway engineer Michael Byng recently told the AJ’s sister publication New Civil Engineer that the price tag could be even higher, rising to £103 billion calculated on 2015 prices.

The mammoth project is being worked on by various architects and engineers. These include Grimshaw and Arup, which have designed two HS2 stations in the West Midlands and the Euston extension as part of the route’s intended first phase which was due to start running in 2026. Last year it emerged that Foster + Partners was working on designs for the proposed Leeds HS2 station.

In February, WilkinsonEyre and engineer WSP revealed new images of their proposed Old Oak Common HS2 and Crossail interchange, billed as the ‘best-connected rail station’ in the country. Four months later the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) warned that the wider area’s £1 billion development was ‘completely dependent on politicians nailing HS2’.

A spokesperson for the DfT said: ’We have not put any time limit on Oakervee’s findings, and he will report when he is ready to do so.’

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