Government refutes claims of HS2 Phase 2 delays
GOVERNMENT is investigating what is still required to progress the HS2 Phase 2 Hybrid Bill, but denies the project is being delayed or paused.
The Bill was due to be tabled next year, but a report in The Times on September 3 claimed it was being delayed by a year.
In a statement, the Department for Transport confirmed it was looking at the whole picture, and that the Bill needed to take into account plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
A DfT spokesman said: “In order to maximise the huge potential of HS2, it is important to make sure it takes full account of the emerging vision for the other transformative project of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“Phase 2b of the railway will connect the great cities of the North to boost jobs, housing and economic growth, and remains on track to open in 2033. We will update Parliament as part of our consultation this autumn.”
Parliament resat from September 4 for two weeks, ahead of the main conference season.
HS2 Ltd referred RAIL to the DfT, but explained that Government wanted more time to finalise what will be included in the Bill, and said that this should not change the planned opening date of 2033 for Phase 2.
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority council member, said: “The DfT has assured us that timetabling for project delivery is still the same, and it is imperative that doesn’t change.
“However, any delay in the process which will deliver HS2 to the North is concerning, and it is essential that this does not have a knock-on impact on the timetable for construction or the opening of the eastern leg. There’s a great deal of work going on behind the scenes in making sure we’re HS2 ready, and we’ll shortly be submitting our strategic outline business case to government detailing our vision for Leeds station.”
Transport Select Committee Chairman Lilian Greenwood said: “If true, this is a poor start to the new parliamentary year for the Transport Secretary. It’s yet another potential delay to a large and complex transport infrastructure project, and raises further doubts over the Government’s commitment and willingness to invest in the Midlands and the North.
“Ultimately, this project was meant to be the ‘great economic conduit’ for the North, and part of the plans to rebalance economic growth in this country. Without HS2 Phase 2b, the potential transformation to connectivity across the Midlands and to the great cities of the North and Scotland will be lost.”
She also warned that Ministers must be upfront regarding costs and where the finances of the project are.
Work on Phase 1 between London and Birmingham is under way after that Bill received Royal Assent in February 2017. Trains are due to start running in 2026.
Meanwhile, HS2 Ltd said it could not comment on legal issues, after Spanish train builder Talgo issued a legal challenge regarding the decision to add CAF to the shortlisted bidders for the £2.75 billion contract for new trains for HS2. Spokesman Alastair Cowan told RAIL: “All I can say is that, to ensure the best trains are procured, it is vital that a robust competition takes place.”