What is HS2?
High Speed 2 (HS2) is the proposed new high speed railway, planned to be built in England, but funded by taxpayers across the UK. The proposals were made public in 2010, at the very end of the last Labour government, and the first phase is due to open in 2026. But it is over budget and behind schedule. What’s more, opposition to the project is continuing to increase, due to the poor economic case, the dire effects on the environment, and the multiple better ways of spending the money earmarked for HS2.Over Budget and Behind Schedule
For many years, politicians maintained that HS2 was on schedule and on budget. Skeptics were pointed to the Elizabeth Line (formerly known as Crossrail), which until a few months before it was due to open appeared to be “on time and on budget”. But in a few short months, this all changed, with billions being added to the Crossrail budget. What was worse, in the summer of 2018, the opening date was delayed from December 2018 to potentially 2021.Delayed Notice to Proceed
The clearest indication that HS2 is not on time or budget is the delay to Notice to Proceed.
The next major step with HS2 is Notice to Proceed: in the words of HS2 Chair, Allen Cook, to the Transport Select Committee, this means
Until notice to Proceed is given, HS2 Ltd cannot start building HS2.
In the same session, the three main tests that HS2 would have to pass were described as “management capability, affordability of contracts and robustness of the revised business case.”
But Notice to Proceed has been delayed several times already Originally due to begin in 2017, construction was subsequently delayed to November 2018, then March 2019, June 2019 and then December 2019.
2019 Oakervee Review, Delays and Cost Rises
During his leadership campaign, Boris Johnson promised to set up a review into HS2. This ‘brief six-week study’ was kicked off in August 2019, and led by former HS2 Ltd chair, Doug Oakervee. In what was supposed to provide balance, Lord Tony Berkeley, a critic of HS2, was set up as co-chair. The review period was expected to be quite short, but as of January 2020 there is still no sign of the review itself.
At the start of the Parliamentary term, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, published the Stocktake document by incoming HS2 Ltd Chair Allen Cook. This said what had long been predicted by Stop HS2: that both the costs and schedule for HS2 was hopelessly behind.
Parliament had been told by ministers in July that the budget for HS2 was £55bn. However the The cost for HS2 officially went from £55 bn in 2015 prices to £81 – £88 bn in 2019 prices (£72-78bn in 2015 prices). Originally Phase 1 was expected to open in 2026, with Phase 2 in 2033: the Stocktake review delayed the opening of Phase 1 to between 2028 and 2031, with Phase 2 potentially opening in 2040.