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HS2: peer claims MPs were misled over ‘out of control’ costs

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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.

But the Labour peer disputes this and has published his own review into the project following his resignation from the Oakervee Review panel in November over what he alleged was a ’lack of balance’.

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.



Readers' comments (2)

  • Very unfortunate if Lord Berkeley's view frightens the horses and the project goes the same way as the Garden Bridge.
    But compared to that piece of nonsense the HS2 railway has the ability to become an increasingly valuable asset, since more significantly than the marginal time saving it will release capacity for more rail freight transport just when this is likely to become more popular due to the need to cut carbon emissions in the face of ever-increasing road traffic. Lord Berkeley should know this, because until recently he was banging the drum for more access to the railways for the freight transport industry.
    Good Lord, you can't have it both ways - but having said that, there could well be ways of achieving 99% of the benefits at considerably lower cost.

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  • 99% of the benefits at considerably lower cost sound like a strong case for redesign or even "value-engineering"

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