HS2 train

Government launch review of HS2 costs and benefits

HS2 train designs revealed

The government is to launch a review of high-speed rail link HS2, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying a “go or no-go” decision will be made by the end of the year.

The first part of HS2, between London and Birmingham, was expected to open in the winter of 2026. The second phase to Leeds and Manchester is still scheduled to be completed by 2032-33.

£7billion has already been spent on the project so far.

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The review will be chaired by Douglas Oakervee, a civil engineer who served as chairman of the Crossrail project between 2005 and 2009.

Lord Berkeley, another civil engineer who worked on the construction of the Channel Tunnel, will act as his deputy.

A final report will be sent to the government in the autumn.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has published the terms of reference and timetable for the Government-commissioned independent review of HS2.

Led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee, the review will consider “whether and how HS2 should proceed”, the Department for Transport said.

A final report will be sent to Mr Shapps with “oversight from the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer” by the autumn.

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Mr Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.

“Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”

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Labour peer Lord Adonis, who as well as being a former transport secretary was also on the board of the HS2 project, said the review was “about as stupid as you can get” and “screws Birmingham and the north”.

In a string of tweets, he said: “It throws project into flux & will cause big delays, loss of confidence & cost increases. But HS2 will almost certainly continue afterwards in modified form. What a shambles.

“Membership of the review is about evenly divided between supporters & opponents of HS2, who will now engage in a massive bun fight while the Transport Department runs for cover & HS2 Ltd is paralysed by indecision.

He added: “Designing an infrastructure project by committee is always bad, but redesigning by committee of contrarians is reckless & irresponsible. This is (Boris Johnson adviser Dominic) Cummings-style Maoist mayhem to appease a handful of Tory backbenchers.”

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About the Author

Sam Hewitt