Despite pledging to find cost savings in the hugely expensive High Speed 2 train line, the project's new boss has failed to find any significant financial cuts. It means the total cost of the tracks and new trains remains at £50.1 billion. Sir David Higgins, HS2's recently appointed chairman, will announce his findings and his new recommendations for the project at an event in Manchester this morning. But he does acknowledge the huge costs and opposition to HS2.
Sir David writes in his report:
ITV News Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship's report on HS2.
The controversial project comes in two phases. Phase One will link London to Birmingham. It is scheduled to open in 2026. Phase Two will link Birmingham to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds. It is planned to open by 2033.
The most significant alteration to the plan suggests extending Phase One a further 43 miles north as far as Crewe.The HS2 Chairman claims that will enable the big cities of the North to benefit from the faster services of the high speed line six years earlier than planned.
But he will also recommend abandoning plans to link the HS2 line to the high-speed Channel tunnel link (officially known as HS1). He says it is not a priority and is not worth the £700 million cost. Sir David says the terminus of HS2, at Euston, is only one stop away on the London Underground from HS1, at St Pancras. And Euston station, he argues, should be more extensively redeveloped. But controversially, there are NO significant cost savings.
The expensive "mitigation" schemes - tunnels and cuttings to minimise the impact of the new line on homes and businesses - should be maintained wherever possible, Sir David argues.
He also urges politicians not to delay, pointing out that there is a "direct connection" between the length of the Parliamentary process and the amount of contingency funds required.
A complex Bill for Phase One of the line is currently going through both Houses of Parliament and the Transport Secretary has recently warned that it may not have completed its passage before the next election.
That is significant, because the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, is known to have doubts about the costs and benefits of HS2. And until politicians of all party have given their unequivocal backing, the delays - and therefore the costs - of the projects will only grow.