The chair of High Speed 2 (HS2) has admitted that the project’s £55.7 billion budget is not realistic and has warned of a five-year delay to the project’s first phase
In a ‘stock take’ report released just days after prime minister Boris Johnson ordered a full review of the rail link, HS2 chief Allan Cook announced the project needed a ’more realistic timescale’. He added that the total cost had also risen from £62 billion to between £81 billion and £88 billion.
The first proposed HS2 section between London and Birmingham had been due to open at the end of 2026, but that could now be pushed back to 2031, he said. This could also initially involve running trains between Old Oak Common and Birmingham, with the Euston section of the line to follow later.
The second phase from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, which had been due to open in 2032-33, is not now expected to complete until 2040.
In terms of further ’value engineering’, Cook said it was unlikely there would be ’significant additional cost reduction available’. However he added the HS2 project teams were ’considering whether reducing the project’s physical footprint in certain locations [was] feasible, for example at Euston’ where Grimshaw is working on the new station plans.
Cook also recommended the development of a new assessment method to ’capture the true scale of the benefit’ of the project.
The government’s root-and-branch audit of the rail project – officially The Oakervee review – is currently assessing whether or not to alter the project, scrap certain sections or reallocate the money. In July transport minister Charlotte Vere told the House of Lords that the government had already spent £7.4 billion on HS2.
The review is expected to report back before Christmas to transport secretary Grant Shapps who has said he remains’ open-minded’ about the future of the project.
News of the review prompted a chorus of high-level support from within the profession for the rail link.
Sadie Morgan (pictured), chair of HS2’s independent design panel as well as a national infrastructure commissioner and co-founder of Stirling Prize-winning dRMM, was among the vocal supporters.
‘HS2 is a project with the potential to reduce the North-South divide and provide real growth opportunities for the northern cities – especially if combined with a commitment to the Northern Powerhouse Rail strategy,’ she said. ‘We must not lose sight of the benefits to the North and long-term improvements to the nation’s transport infrastructure.’
Rogers Stirk Harbour partner Andrew Tyley said boosting transport infrastructure was the most significant contribution a generation could make to its successors.
‘Our future is dependent on investing in infrastructure to create connections at this time of great division in this country,’ he said. ‘It is not the vision that is flawed – we have to overcome the inefficiencies that have led to this problem.’
An AJ Twitter poll last month, showed 61 per cent favoured continuing with the project, with 39 per cent against.
Should the government continue with the HS2 high-speed rail line?— Architects’ Journal (@ArchitectsJrnal) August 21, 2019