The sorry state of HS2: Work on Britain’s planned high-speed rail link chugs along at a sluggish pace amid fury over ‘completely insane’ idea it might not even reach London as fears grow of more delays
- Work on HS2 going at slow pace amid reports line may not reach central London
- But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has insisted the route will reach Euston Station
Pictures show work on HS2 chugging along at a sluggish pace after Jeremy Hunt dismissed the ‘completely insane’ idea the line might never reach central London.
The Government earlier refused to deny the reports that HS2 might be delayed or may never reach Euston.
But the Chancellor said he did not see ‘any conceivable circumstances’ in which HS2 would not run to its planned central London terminus at Euston, amid reports that a section of the route could be axed because of rising costs.
This comes as delays to the high-speed rail project due soaring inflation mean the redeveloped Euston station may not open until 2038 and could be axed completely.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said he did not see ‘any conceivable circumstances’ in which HS2 would not run to its planned central London terminus at Euston. Pictured: HS2 workers building the road realignment on Harvil Road, Harefield, Uxbridge, today
HS2 are building a new realignment road that will take traffic across the existing Chiltern Railway
Work on the high-speed rail project is chugging along at a sluggish pace due soaring inflation. Pictured: Work on Harvil Road in Harfield
Trains could instead stop at a new hub at Old Oak Common in west London’s suburbs, according to The Sun. But Rishi Sunak also insisted that the Government is ‘committed to delivering all the plans that it’s announced with rail’.
Earlier, former Treasury minister Jim O’Neill – who served in David Cameron’s government to work on the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project – claimed it would be ‘completely insane’ for HS2 not to run to central London.
The newspaper also reported that a two to five-year delay to the entire project is being considered.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘The Government remains committed to delivering HS2 to Manchester, as confirmed in the Autumn Statement.
‘As well as supporting tens of thousands of jobs, the project will connect regions across the UK, improve capacity on our railways and provide a greener option of travel.’
Mr Hunt, asked by BBC News after a central London speech whether ministers were committed to HS2 going ‘all the way to Euston’, replied: ‘Yes we are.
‘And I don’t see any conceivable circumstances in which that would not end up at Euston.
‘And indeed I prioritised HS2 in the autumn statement.’
Mr Hunt said the UK does not have ‘a good record’ of delivering complex, expensive infrastructure quickly, but he is ‘incredibly proud’ that HS2 is being built under a Conservative Government.
He added: ‘We’re going to make it happen.’
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today insisted that ministers were committed to the high-speed rail line going all the way to its planned Euston terminus
A ‘full business case’ for HS2 published by the DfT in April 2020 stated that the target timeframe for services launching between Old Oak Common and Birmingham was 2029-2033, whereas for trains between Euston and north-west England the range was 2031-2036
It has been widely reported in the press today that there is a possibility that HS2 could terminate in West London and not Euston due to costs, however, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has denied this. Pictured: Works on HS2 on the busy Harvil Road in Harefield, Uxbridge
Phase One of HS2 involves the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe in Phase 2a. Phase 2b will connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands. A planned extension to Leeds was controversially scrapped in November 2021
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to the North East, Mr Sunak said his government was ‘committed to investing in rail across the country’.
The Government was ‘committed to delivering all the plans that it’s announced with rail,’ he added.
‘But as well as these very large rail schemes, which are of course important, what I’m also keen to do is make sure that the Government invests in local transportation around the areas where people live, whether that’s better local roads, or we’re filling in potholes, putting in more bus lanes, road junctions, bypasses.’
Complexities around the Euston site meant high-speed services were already due to temporarily start and end at Old Oak Common, with passengers using the Elizabeth line to travel to and from central London.
That would add at least half an hour onto journeys to and from Euston.
A ‘full business case’ for HS2 published by the DfT in April 2020 stated that the target timeframe for services launching between Old Oak Common and Birmingham was 2029-2033, whereas for trains between Euston and north-west England the range was 2031-2036.
The document also stated: ‘Euston is an important part of realising the benefits of HS2 and that work should continue on the section from Old Oak Common to Euston.
‘Notwithstanding this, Euston is a very challenging, complex major programme and given its current status, Old Oak Common will be expected to operate as a temporary terminus for a period of time.’
HS2 construction for pier 30 of the Colne Valley Viaduct across Broadwater Lake in Harefield
An aerial view of the groundworks construction of the HS2 high speed rail network progresses around the A38 dual-carriageway near Streethay on today in Lichfield
Works on HS2 in Harefield, Uxbridge today on a road which is used by ambulances going to Harefield Hospital
Phase One of HS2 involves the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe in Phase 2a. Pictured: Works on HS2 in Uxbridge
Phase 2b will connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands. Pictured: A new bridge over the river for HS2 in Uxbridge
Lord Berkeley, deputy chairman of a review into HS2 commissioned by then-prime minister Boris Johnson in August 2019, told the PA news agency that Old Oak Common could only have capacity for around half the trains of Euston.
He said: ‘There’s not enough space for it (to be the London terminal) so they couldn’t do it except maybe (for) a shuttle service from Birmingham.
‘What’s the point of building HS2 just to get to Birmingham?
‘I think the whole thing should be cancelled.’
He claimed investment in the project would be ‘much better spent on improving the railway lines in the north, east and west, than going to London a bit quicker’.
A lorry arriving for works on HS2 at Harvil Road in Uxbridge, which will close for three weeks
Aerial view of the Hs2 site near Lea Marston, North Warwickshire, this afternoon
Phase One of HS2 involves the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe in Phase 2a.
Phase 2b will connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands.
The planned extension to Leeds was shelved in November 2021.
Nigel Harris, managing editor of Rail magazine, claimed it would be ‘catastrophic’ to scrap HS2’s Euston station as there would be ‘no incentive’ for people to switch from West Coast Main Line services.
He said: ‘If you’re flying into Heathrow, you don’t want to go to Southend. That’s effectively what you’d be doing.’
Mr Harris added that Euston is ‘being built right now’ with billions of pounds already spent on preparatory work and buying up property.
Works on the HS2 road realignment in Harvil Road, Harefield, Uxbridge today
High Speed Rail construction for pier 30 of the Colne Valley Viaduct across Broadwater Lake in Harefield
There had been reports that soaring inflation meant a new station at Euston could be scrapped completely
Construction of a 4.5-mile long tunnel between Old Oak Common and Euston was expected to begin in 2024 and take two years to complete.
HS2 has been dogged by criticism over its financial and environmental impact.
In October of last year, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove suggested capital investment for HS2 would be reviewed, but Chancellor Jeremy Hunt subsequently backed the project.
The target cost of Phase One was £40.3 billion at 2019 prices.
A budget of £55.7 billion for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015.
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh tweeted: ‘Insulting that the PM goes to the North-East, visits a site with a HS2 contract and refuses to give a clear commitment.
‘The Tories have no plan for the future.’
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