HS2 construction ‘up to three years behind schedule’
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report on the environmental impact of the scheme, was only intended as an “indicative” schedule and had since been superseded by a “more detailed programme of works” which incorporated changes requested by MPs and residents, but which it declined to release.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.”