Phase one of HS2 from London to Birmingham is set to be delayed for at least five years, Transport Minister Grant Shapps has warned today.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the cost of the high speed rail project had ballooned beyond all initial estimations, from £62bn to anywhere between £81bn and £88bn.
Phase two of the project between Manchester and Leeds was given a provisional operational date of 2032-33 - but now that estimate has been rubbished, with 2035-2040 being the latest date suggested.
The Transport Secretary was referencing a report written by HS2 Chairman Allan Cook (which you can read here) on the state of play of HS2 which delivered a damning verdict on the cost efficiency and timescales of the project
He wrote: "The budget and target schedule has proved unrealistic".
HS2 Chairman Mr Cook said the delay had occurred because the of the 'complex' geography of the UK, and that the train would be built through densely populated areas.
In a written statement to MPs, the transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Colleagues will see that the chairman of HS2 does not believe that the current scheme design can be delivered within the budget of £55.7bn, set in 2015 prices.
“Regarding schedule, the chairman does not believe the current schedule of 2026 for initial services on phase one is realistic.”
Earlier this month, the Bucks Herald reported on Grant Shapps decision to make a 'go or no go' decision on the high speed rail project by the end of the year.
Speaking at the time he said: "Just because you've spent a lot of money on something does not mean you should plough more and more money into it.
He said he remains unconvinced that the project is still value for money and has said he will now "consider all the evidence available".
You can read that report here
Mr Shapps added: “In line with lessons from other major transport infrastructure projects, his advice proposes a range of dates for the start of service.
“He recommends 2028 to 2031 for phase one – with a staged opening, starting with initial services between London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed by services to and from London Euston later.
“He expects Phase 2b, the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds, to open between 2035 and 2040.”