The former deputy chair of the Oakervee Review into HS2, Lord Berkeley, has claimed the project is likely to cost more than £108 billion
According to the AJ’s sister publication Construction News, the project’s official budget currently stands between £81 billion to £88 billion.
In his own report released yesterday (5 January), Lord Berkeley claimed project costs are ’out of control’ and concluded that government will either have to accept the higher cost of the line or only build part of the proposed route.
He also alleged that MPs have been ’misled’ over the project’s budget.
’I believe that parliament has been seriously misled by the failure of HS2 Ltd and by ministers to report objectively and fairly on costs and programme changes,’ he said.
Lord Berkeley claimed that completing only part of the route could save the government £50 billion, by reconsidering phase 2B (from Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands) and focusing on upgrading existing Network Rail lines in the north of England and the Midlands instead.
In the report, he said: ’The aim must be to give these areas the same standard of commuting service as the South-east, while, at the same time, improving the existing lines from London northwards.’
Appearing on BBC News, the peer, who is also a civil engineer, rejected suggestions that the increased costs were due to project delays. ’The real cause is [HS2] has been over-designed,’ he said.
’You do not need to go 400km/h in a country as small as ours […] the higher the speed makes a big difference to the cost.’
Lord Berkeley also claimed that the first section of the route, between London and Birmingham, will not open until 2029, with the route not reaching Manchester or Leeds until 2040.
The first phase is currently scheduled to start running in late 2026, with the route expected to be completed to Leeds and Manchester by 2035.
Responding to his report, Midlands Connect director Maria Machancoses said: ’Lord Berkeley’s suggestions that the government should consider building only small sections of HS2 in the north of England shows a disgraceful ignorance of how important the scheme is to the Midlands.
’Our region of more than 10 million people stands to benefit the most from HS2, yet we are consistently squeezed out of the debate. HS2 must be delivered in full.’
Rail Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan called for the publication of the Oakervee Review ’as soon as possible’.
He said: ’Let us be clear: HS2 is vital for the UK as it seeks to boost transport infrastructure for the whole country in the coming decade.’
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ’The government commissioned the Oakervee Review to provide advice on how and whether to proceed with HS2, with an independent panel representing a range of viewpoints.
’Lord Berkeley’s report represents his personal view.’
In December, prime minister Boris Johnson said in a radio interview that he guessed the cost of HS2 could rise to ’north of £100 bn’.
The prime minister said the future of the project would not be decided until the Oakervee Review is published.
A date for its publication has not been announced.