HS2 high-speed rail line may not reach central London until 2040s

Businesses are taking damage after investing so much for the arrival of HS2, only for the project to be pushed back by years, ITV London's Daniel Henry reports

The long-awaited HS2 high speed rail project may not arrive at Euston station until around 2040 as further delays are made in order to cut costs.

Transport secretary Mark Harper announced a revised schedule for different phases of the line, forced by inflationary pressures and increased project costs.

HS2 was due for extension between Birmingham and Crewe between 2030 and 2034 to help boost transport in the North of England.

But Mr Harper said he was instead “prioritising” the initial services between Old Oak Common in west London’s suburbs and Birmingham Curzon Street.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

The move means that services will not stop in Euston in central London for years to come, with passengers expected instead travel for half an hour on the Elizabeth Line.

In a written ministerial statement, Mr Harper said the government was “committed” to delivering services into Euston.

However, he warned ministers will “take the time to ensure we have an affordable and deliverable station design”.

He said trains to Euston would be delivered alongside HS2 to Manchester, which had been set to be connected with Crewe between 2035 and 2041.

Business leaders warned the move could ultimately lead to higher costs.

John Foster, the Confederation of British Industry’s policy unit programme director, said: “Delays to projects may create short-term savings, but they can ultimately lead to higher overall costs and slow down the UK’s transition to a better, faster and greener transport network”.

Officials confirmed that Euston’s connection had been anticipated to open between 2031-36, but now is expected to be a roughly three-year delay.

Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan said having trains going to Old Oak Common for a longer period was not a viable option.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent regenerating the Euston area, and homes and businesses have been demolished to make way for HS2, causing huge disruption for zero reward,” he said.

Mr Khan said the project “must go ahead without further delay”.

Cost-saving measures are being made due to inflationary pressures and increased construction costs. Credit: PA images

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was angered by the Government making the announcement with a written statement rather than facing MPs for questioning.

A spokeswoman said: “The Speaker has consistently told the Government that major policy announcements should be made to the House first so that members have the chance to ask questions on behalf of their constituents, rather than hearing about them via the media.”

The transport setbacks come ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget on Wednesday when he is expected to keep a tight rein on Government spending.

Mr Harper insisted: “These are the difficult but responsible decisions we are taking, that put the priorities of the British people first, in controlling inflation and reducing government debt.”

Andy Bagnall, chief executive for rail industry lobby group Rail Partners, said: “While inflationary pressures make infrastructure projects more challenging, it is critical for Britain’s economy and meeting net zero targets that large sections of HS2 are not delayed which will ultimately increase the overall cost.”

HS2 has been dogged by criticism over its finances. A budget of £55.7 billion for the whole of the project was set in 2015.

But the target cost excluding the eastern leg of Phase 2b from the West Midlands to the East Midlands has ballooned to between £53 billion and £71 billion (in 2019 prices).

Penny Gaines, chairwoman of the campaign group Stop HS2, said: “With the so called re-phasing of the Birmingham to Crewe section, the delays and downgrading of other parts of the project, the Government is spending tens of billions to have a railway with two Birmingham stations and one in the suburbs of London.

“Rather than adding more delays to supposedly save costs, the Government should cancel HS2 in its entirety, ensure that the people who have lost homes and businesses to HS2 are paid in full the compensation they are due, and the damage to the environment that has already been done is made good.”

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