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HS2 review findings could be delayed until December

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The outcome of the independent review into High Speed 2 (HS2) could be delayed until December, the AJ’s sister title New Civil Engineer understands

Transport secretary Grant Shapps is understood to have called in the chair of the review, Doug Oakervee, and prime minister Boris Johnson’s transport adviser Andrew Gilligan to request they push back the publication date.

The review was launched in August, with a ‘go or no-go’ decision expected by the autumn. An initial report was mooted to have been given an approximate date of October 16 to be submitted to the Department for Transport.

New Civil Engineer understands that within the Department for Transport (DfT), there are concerns that the review, if hurried through, might be unable to address the issues raised within its terms of reference with sufficient thoroughness and could be open to potential challenge.

Meanwhile, the advisory panel to the independent review into HS2 has also been asked to sign new non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in an attempt to stop ongoing leaks, New Civil Engineer can reveal.

The new confidentiality commitments come after Shapps told Parliament’s transport select committee that media speculation about the review and its outcomes, including rumours that the proposed link to Leeds and Sheffield could be binned, was ’completely untrue’.

Speaking in Parliament, Shapps said: ‘In terms of timing, we always said autumn, which runs up the end of the year. But as budget watchers will recall over the years, autumn can stretch into December. With Brexit we may have to let that process play out and then let members [of Parliament] concentrate on an issue like this [HS2] after.’

Although the super fast train link had provisionally been officially costed at £56 billion, a recent stocktake 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 thinks the price tag could be even higher, having told Oakervee it could rise to £103 billion in 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’.

The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • For anyone in Boris Johnson's Cabinet to say that something is 'completely untrue' must be treated with caution.

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  • The current plans for HS2 are a mess, and hopefully the December review will acknowledge this. HS2 should be built, but using the route of the Central Railway, closed by Beeching, still visible on the ground from the Midlands to London, and partially used by a heritage railway around Loughborough. The architects on the committee at least should be pointing this out. And it doesn’t need to be high speed. 125mph will do in this country, with good WiFi and a structure gauge able to take double deck rolling stock. And does it go to Euston, or Old Oak Lane. And how does it connect to the airports and HS1??

    Build it in 5 years for £20billion ono? And spend the money saved on connectivity in the north, including buses and better WiFi? Come on Grant and the Team, it’s really not rocket science. With Brexit out of the way you will have time to think, and sort out Heathrow too?!

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