HS2 con­struc­tion ‘up to three years be­hind sched­ule’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Ed­ward Mal­nick WHITE­HALL ED­I­TOR

CON­STRUC­TION of the con­tro­ver­sial HS2 rail line is up to three years be­hind sched­ule, cam­paign­ers have claimed.

The Sun­day Tele­graph can dis­close that the firm be­hind the £56bil­lion project has yet to be­gin work on large sec­tions of the pro­posed track where build­ing was ini­tially due to start as early as 2016.

In one case, a wa­ter sports cen­tre at a lake west of Lon­don has been told it will not have to va­cate its site un­til 2019 or 2020 to al­low the con­struc­tion of a viaduct, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been in­formed that work would be­gin in 2016.

Con­struc­tion of an­other sec­tion of the line in War­wick­shire has been sus- pended un­til at least “late 2020”, with coun­cil of­fi­cials stat­ing that even that timetable is “sub­ject to change”.

The cases are among a litany of ex­am­ples col­lected by cam­paign­ers where the con­struc­tion of parts of the line, in­clud­ing bridges and tun­nels, ap­pears to be sig­nif­i­cantly be­hind a timetable sub­mit­ted to Par­lia­ment in 2013 as part of the project’s en­vi­ron­men­tal state­ment, be­fore MPs backed the line. It stated that the first phase of the route – be­tween Lon­don and Birm­ing­ham – was due to open to pas­sen­gers in 2026 – a claim HS2 main­tains to­day.

The dis­clo­sures come amid a grow­ing po­lit­i­cal row over the cost of the line. Last week The Tele­graph dis­closed that An­drea Lead­som, the leader of the Com­mons, told the Cab­i­net that HS2 rep­re­sented poor value for money and the fund­ing would be bet­ter spent else­where. Boris John­son, the for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary, also called for the project to be scrapped.

HS2 Ltd in­sisted the 2013 timetable, sub­mit­ted as part of a de­tailed re­port on the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the scheme, was only in­tended as an “in­dica­tive” sched­ule and had since been su­per­seded by a “more de­tailed pro­gramme of works” which in­cor­po­rated changes re­quested by MPs and res­i­dents, but which it de­clined to re­lease. It said work was un­der way on 60 sites be­tween Lon­don and Birm­ing­ham.

Cam­paign­ers said the ap­par­ent in­ac­tion on many sites due for de­vel­op­ment by now un­der the 2013 sched­ule cast doubt on the in­sis­tence by HS2 Ltd and min­is­ters that it was “on time”. Joe Rukin, cam­paign man­ager of Stop HS2, the pres­sure group, said: “HS2 is clearly three years late.”

“Ad­vance works” on a ma­jor viaduct in the Colne Val­ley area of Hilling­don, west of Lon­don, have yet to be started, two years af­ter they were due to be­gin.

Hilling­don Out­door Ac­tiv­i­ties Cen­tre, which runs wa­ter­sports on the lake that will be spanned by the viaduct, told mem­bers that it had been agreed that it would now only move in 2019 or 2020. It had orig­i­nally been given un­til March 2018 to leave the site.

Sep­a­rately, work on a bridge over the A46 in Ke­nil­worth, War­wick­shire, is now not due to be­gin un­til 2020, af­ter the con­struc­tion of a round­about. The 2013 timetable showed con­struc­tion of the bridge start­ing in the first quar­ter of 2018, to be com­pleted by the sec­ond quar­ter of 2019.

Mean­while, con­struc­tion on more than a dozen sec­tions of line be­tween South Ruis­lip and Ick­en­ham, west of Lon­don, has yet to be­gin, 22 months on from the when the first works were orig­i­nally due to have been com­pleted.

An HS2 Ltd spokesman said: “The 2013 En­vi­ron­men­tal State­ment is not a pro­gramme of con­struc­tion works and to con­fuse the two is wrong and mis­lead­ing. Fol­low­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion and Par­lia­men­tary process, and the ap­point­ment of early works con­trac­tors, the more de­tailed pro­gramme of works was de­vel­oped. HS2 re­mains on track with con­struc­tion works well un­der way on 60 sites across the route.”

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