Auditors slam HS2 as ‘delayed and over budget’

The company behind the Government’s HS2 rail project was over-ambitious and there is “significant uncertainty” as to whether it can be completed between 2036 and 2040 as planned, a report from said.

The public watchdog’s third progress report, published on Friday, said the estimated cost of the high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham, then on to Manchester and Leeds, would rise to £88bn from the £55.7bn estimated in 2015. The National Audit Office report heavily criticises the Department for Transport and the state-funded High Speed Rail company, and the wider government.

It comes in the week a report by former HS2 chairman Doug Oakervee, which was leaked to the public, suggested that the total could reach up to £106bn. This document has not been officially published, but highlights previously unanticipated costs also highlighted in the NAO’s report, including addressing difficult ground conditions and challenging city infrastructure.

Matt Crompton, joint managing director of Muse Developments, said: “We are frustrated that HS2 is over budget and delayed, but look at Heathrow Terminal 3 [which was heavily delayed] – the UK isn’t known for delivering schemes like this to their predicted timescales.” The NAO’s conclusions “were to be expected,” he added.

However, he said he remains optimistic following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promises for the North outlined in his election campaign last year, and still expects the railway to be delivered.

“We’re currently working on schemes in Stockport, Chester, Manchester and Blackpool, and we recognise that progressing public transport and the areas around them are the way forward. We want to see that that is done right.”

The NAO stresses that, on no uncertain terms, construction must begin on Phase One, the link between London Euston and Birmingham Curzon Street, by March 2020 to avoid further delays. Phase One services from Euston are scheduled to start by 2036.

The HS2 company “did not account for the level of uncertainty and risk in the programme when previously estimating the costs of Phase One”, the report said.

Tim Wood, Transport for the North’s Northern Powerhouse Rail director, said: “We welcome this report, which clearly underlies the need to keep a tight grip on costs and risks as we move to inject far greater capacity, connectivity and speed into the UK’S creaking Victorian railway infrastructure for the 21st century and beyond.”

Phase 2B, the route between Manchester and Leeds, is larger in scale than Phase One and 2A combined, but has less funding allocated to it and would be built on more challenging terrain. It would also have to incorporate connections between the existing railway lines and HS2, which would add to its overall cost.

HS2 claims it has completed 5% of the initial scheme design for Phase 2B. NAO states that the HS2 department has been planning to introduce legislation for Phase 2B into Parliament in June 2020, but thinks that “this is ambitious and any delays will impact on the planned opening date”.

The report added that it is not clear when services on HS2 between Leeds and Manchester would start, although HS2 estimates it would open between 2036 and 2040.

HS2 is set to improve infrastructure along with adding 342 miles of tracks to the country. In the North West, this includes station upgrades to Manchester Piccadilly, two more stations for Manchester Airport and one for Crewe. Developments around these areas, such as Mayfield which is connected to Piccadilly and others set to be brought forward in the Piccadilly Basin area are set to benefit from the added infrastructure, but impacts on the schemes are yet to be discucssed in detail.

“Transport for the North believes HS2 is an essential part of that national upgrade, alongside Northern Powerhouse Rail,” added Wood.

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Have my fingers and toes crossed that this get kicked firmly into the long grass.

By Bert

I agree with me and the auditors. HS2 does not make socio-economic sense (if Railway Investors think it makes Commercial sense, let them invest the billions of Pounds. After all, since Thatcher we are all Marketists who truly believe in pure Marketism, are we not?) HS2 would be yet another vein extracting economic value to the Southeast. No, I am not a ‘professional’ Northerner. Why Northern England with a population and economy as big as Holland, has a single-track non-electrified railway and single-carriageway roads (closed when it snows road between Manchester (NW) and Sheffield (S.Yorks/Notts), beggars belief. Our Victorian forebears would have been ashamed of us; our lack of Imagination and determination. Get them shovels out!

By James Yates

Should be renamed ‘the gravy train’ Inept and badly managed since inception although we do need better infrastructure in and from the north

By Northern Outhouse

No chance of HS2 coming to Liverpool then.


By Liver lad

Silence as usual on the whole issue from our elected representatives in Liverpool, more focused on ideology than imagination.

Meanwhile, even Stockport is planning £1bn interchanges.

By LEighteen

Mayor of Liverpool too busy organising his new Zip wire, yippie?

By Man on bicycle

Hope gets scrapped and get on updating what we have now instead of ripping up the beautiful countryside and concreting it over with houses we don’t need so people can buy cheap to travel into London quickly from northern towns

By Suan

Manchester will be a bigger loser. We won’t be able to claim we’re the second city anymore.

By Medlock

Investing a small portion of £88bn on E-W rail / LRT connectivity outside of WCML and ECML monopolies would have had 10 times the impact than HS2 ever would have had.

(I also predicted 5 yrs ago HS2 would never get build beyond Birmingham. It might not even get that far now!)

By MancLad

Why is it costing so much? If this is cancelled then the money needs ploughing into schemes outside the South East.Let us see an Underground built in Central Manchester, A light railway for West Yorkshire, Merseyside’s Metrolink reinstated cancelled by the Blair government and of course the linking of Liverpool and Leeds via Manchester and Manchester airport with a fast train.

By Elephant

What’s the point of it? No one has any difficulty getting to London. Can’t get to Bradford or Sunderland, though.

By Moomo

Hs3 starting in the big City of Liverpool the one with the ever exspanding Superport, Toursim , the City Region that has the largest manafacturing businesses is the North , we build cars ships and import and export to the world we are the gateway to the world for the North , largest occupancy for hotels , MTV awards football the most successful team in the world Liverpool Football Club , Cruise Terminals , most punctual Metro system in the UK , the streets are teaming with film production , The Crown , major blockbuster films , Netflix ,Amazon etc I could go on and on tourism through the roof .
HS3 will only benfit the North west but places down the M62 will be glad of anything Whitehall will throw at them which does not include anyone else .
Hs2 will not come after Birmingham fact.

By Frances

As Boris Johnson is slightly younger than my by 2040 we will both be nearly 80 and I doubt he will PM by then although the state the Labour Party is in it is a possibility. There will be relatively little political gain for him if this goes beyond Birmingham. Although. I think that he will shock us all with the new budget. I think it will be very ambitious on infrastructure.

By Elephant

Even if HS2 was operational now you could still beat it to London Euston via the Avanti West Coast service if you lived in Liverpool, Preston, Wigan or Warrington.

By the time you’ve got yourself from, for example, Warrington, to the HS2 terminal at Manchester Piccadilly (say 30 minutes), waited for the train to depart (say 10 minutes) and then the 57 minute journey that’s 97 minutes total at absolute best.

You can do Warrington Bank Quay to Euston now in 2020 in 106 minutes from Warrington.

How on earth does taking 9 minutes off a 200-mile journey equate to a great leap forward in rail infrastructure?

Preston to Euston via Avanti in 2020 can be as quick as 129 minutes…compare to Preston to HS2 to Euston would be 112 at best.

It’s not worth it.

By North by North-West

I would be surprised if HS2 does NOT go ahead. All the point mentioned here are correct.. The cost/benefit clearly shows this is a waste of money…..but its going ahead; if only so Boris’ mates make millions. The idea for the Review, was only to placate some sensitive areas prior to the election. Now thats over, its time for the ‘mates of Tories’ to get their kickbacks. Logic shows…..and says, its the east – west links that are by far the most important economically. But what do they know about what goes on north of Watford!

By Billy

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