Daily Mail

Now HS2 ‘is due into central London in 2041’

- By David Churchill Chief Political Correspond­ent

DELAYING HS2 will increase costs rather than reduce them – and the trains may not reach central London until 2041, a leaked document says.

The official paper, drawn up by HS2 director-general Alan Over, also appears to warn that the delay could cause job losses and the collapse of businesses.

It says that ‘additional costs will be created by deferring expenditur­e on the programme’ and admits there will be ‘some impacts on jobs’.

Ministers last week said they were delaying the delivery of HS2’s Birmingham to Crewe leg – known as phase 2a – by two years.

This means the project may not open until 2036.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said that the delay was necessary to ‘ balance the nation’s books’.

In the leaked document’s Q&A format, it asks: ‘What will the Government do about constructi­on companies that go bust because of this announceme­nt?’

The paper states that companies will have to ‘work through the contractua­l consequenc­es of this announceme­nt’.

It also refuses to rule out more of the high-speed rail project being axed, failing to guarantee that trains will run to Stafford, Stokeon-Trent and Macclesfie­ld.

The document, which Labour obtained and referenced during a Commons debate yesterday, also suggests the leg from Crewe to Manchester – phase 2b – may not be completed until 2041.

The paper raised the prospect that the trains may not reach central London until the same year, and would stop only as far as Old Oak Common in the north-west of London until then.

Labour yesterday used the leaked document to go on the attack in Parliament.

Flourishin­g it at the Despatch Box after an urgent question was tabled in the Commons, Labour’s transport spokesman Louise Haigh said: ‘His [the Transport Secretary’s] chief justificat­ion for the delays to HS2 were to balance the nation’s books, but here his own department admit what he will not – that the delay itself will increase costs.

‘They admit it will cost jobs, that constructi­on firms could go bust. They cannot rule out slashing high- speed trains serving Stoke, Macclesfie­ld and Stafford altogether... This damaging leak blows apart their key claims to be saving taxpayers’ money.’

But rail minister Huw Merriman hit back, saying: ‘Obviously we do not comment on leaked documents or certainly not documents I have not been given at all.

‘It is an entirely responsibl­e government approach to balance the commitment­s we make and transport commitment­s totalling £40billion that have been set out to the House.’

Mr Merriman said the Government was also facing spending pressures due to its energy bill support package.

He added: ‘I’m very proud of what we are doing when it comes to delivering HS2.’

Last week’s announceme­nt was the latest setback to Britain’s biggest- ever infrastruc­ture project, which has been plagued by delays and spiralling costs since being announced.

A budget of £55.7billion for the whole project was set in 2015.

But the target cost has ballooned to up to £71billion, excluding the eastern leg which was axed in 2021, and the project has been dogged by criticism over its finances. The eastern leg would have taken trains from Birmingham to Leeds and pushed the project’s cost to potentiall­y more than £100billion.

‘Firms could go bust’

 ?? ?? Setback: The high speed rail project has been delayed
Setback: The high speed rail project has been delayed

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