North East Devolution and Levelling Up
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Urgent action needed to safeguard HS2 for North East – MPs

Urgent action is needed if the whole HS2 (high speed rail) programme, including the eastern leg (HS2b) from Birmingham to Leeds, providing a link to the North East, is to be delivered on time, according to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

A committee report published today says MPs are increasingly alarmed by the lack of progress in developing Euston station in London, even though it is a key part of Phase 1 of the multi-billion pound project.

‘Government also still needs to decide how Phase 2b – the northern sections of the route – will integrate with other parts of the railway and transport system. Both Euston and Phase 2b are complex and risky parts of the programme, but they are critical to the delivery of the promised benefits from HS2. Urgent action is needed if the whole programme is to be delivered on time’.

While the PAC does not suggest that any part of HS2 should not go ahead, it does warn that the increase in costs has dented public confidence.

‘The project does appear to be in a better place following the reset last year. Significant concerns remain however, around key parts of the programme that if unaddressed will lead to further costs and disruption. With construction of Phase 1 underway and plans for Phase 2a approved by Parliament, the current estimated cost of completing HS2 is between £72–98bn (2019), an increase from the original budget of £55.7bn (2015 prices) in 2015.

‘While HS2 Ltd consider these estimates to be realistic, uncertainty remains, particularly when a substantial amount of the Phase 1 programme is still to be procured and HS2 Ltd is already reporting cost pressures of £0.8bn from activities such as delayed enabling works and Euston station.

‘HS2 Ltd is also unable to quantify the final cost of the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic but estimates the cost to be between £300m and £400m at the end of 2020. If these costs are validated, they will need to be covered by the government-retained contingency of £4.3bn’.

This website has been warning for months that HS2b was under threat and today’s report from the PAC will only add to the fears of North East politicians, who set great store by the project, that this is the case.