HS2 rail project could cost £106bn, says review

The HS2 high-speed rail project could cost as much as £106 billion, according to an official government review not yet published.

The review led by Doug Oakervee, a former chairman of HS2, reportedly says there is "considerable risk" that the project's cost will rise by up to 20% beyond the £81 billion to £88 billion range set out in a report by current HS2 chairman Allan Cook just four months ago.

Mr Oakervee's review says work on phase 2b of HS2 from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds should be paused for six months to study if it could mix conventional and high-speed lines, according to the Financial Times, which has seen a copy of the paper.

The review says the Government should "on balance" continue with the 250mph railway, which would initially go from London's Euston station to Birmingham and then to Leeds and Manchester by 2040, but that this is subject to "a number of qualifications".

The current proposed route of HS2. Credit: HS2 Ltd / Department for Transport

It says there needs to be "further work" done to assess HS2's impact on regional growth and it is "hard" to say what economic benefits will result from building it.

"Transport investment alone will not 'rebalance' the UK economy," the review adds.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to decide within weeks whether to go ahead with construction on the first phase of what would be Europe's largest infrastructure project.

The review said savings to the £106 billion figure could be made by having the private sector contribute to funding HS2 stations, lowering specifications and improving the "cost performance of the management".

It also says that no other high-speed line in the world runs 18 trains per hour and recommends reducing it to 14.

£8 billion has already been spent on the HS2 project.

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£8 billion has already been spent on the HS2 project. Credit: HS2 Ltd.

Downing Street refused to comment on the latest leaks about the cost of HS2.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Government commissioned the Oakervee review to provide advice on whether and how to proceed with HS2.

"A draft of the Oakervee review was delivered shortly before Christmas. We are committed to publishing the findings of the review to Parliament.

"That remains the case, I am not going to pre-empt its publication."