HS2 high-speed trains may not reach Euston until around 2040
HS2 high-speed trains may not arrive at Euston until about 2040 after the opening of the £100billion rail project was “re-phased” in a bid to save cash.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Thursday set out a new timeline for the line’s different phases - as he promised to “prioritise” the first stage between Birmingham and a new station at Old Oak Common in north-west London.
This is now slated to open in the “early 2030s” - still within the previous 2029-33 target date.
But concerns quickly emerged around Euston, where a new £2.6bn HS2 terminus station is being built alongside the main line station.
It was due to open between 2031-36 but sources suggested it now faces a delay of two to three years as the cost of the new station undergoes a second review.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said the aim was to open Euston around the same time as the HS2 extension to Manchester was completed - meaning between 2035 and 2041.
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 insisted the Government was “committed” to delivering services into Euston, but said ministers will “take the time to ensure we have an affordable and deliverable station design”.
He also insisted that the Government is “committed” to delivering the high-speed rail link between Birmingham and Crewe.
But he added: “We have seen significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs, and so we will rephase construction by two years, with an aim to deliver high-speed services to Crewe and the North West as soon as possible after accounting for the delay in construction.”
Responding to the statement, London mayor Sadiq Khan said the Euston project “must go ahead without further delay”.
He told the Standard: “The delivery of major transport infrastructure such as HS2 is vital for our long-term economic growth, in London and across the country. The Government simply must not delay this vital national infrastructure yet again.
“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. With the effect it has on traffic and other economic and environmental impacts, local residents simply should not have to spend even more years dealing with the knock-on effects of this giant construction site.
“With the serious impact it would have on other parts of our transport network - terminating the HS2 route at Old Oak Common for a longer period of time is not a viable option either.”
Business leaders warned the delays 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”.
Delaying projects - whether it’s train lines or hospitals - doesn’t make them cheaper, it only holds back economic benefits and increases the overall scheme costs further in the long run
Henri Murison, Northern Powerhouse Partnership
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said the North is “yet again being asked to pay the price for staggering Conservative failure”.
“Tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic growth are dependent on this project,” the Labour MP said.
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.”
The A27 Arundel and the A5036 Princess Way in Liverpool were being put back along with other road projects. The Lower Thames Crossing connecting Kent and Essex was being delayed by two years.
AA president Edmund King said: “All modes of transport are vital to the economy, environment and society in the UK, so cuts across the board will have a detrimental effect.”
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.”
Henri Murison, the chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership business group, said: “While this decision to delay is a disappointing one for the country, we are relived that the most northerly section of the route between Crewe and Manchester will be protected as the section makes it way towards parliamentary approval.
“Delaying projects – whether it’s train lines or hospitals – doesn’t make them cheaper, it only holds back economic benefits and increases the overall scheme costs further in the long run.
“We’re paying a huge price for the endless dithering during Boris Johnson’s premiership, and the wider damage done by cancelling the leg to Leeds, with still no plan for how to get services to Yorkshire and beyond.”
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).