HS2: All the delays and U-turns on £100bn rail project since it started

The High Speed 2 rail project has been beset by delays and cost re-evaluations ever since it was first put forward in 2009.

An artist's impression of a HS2 train. (PA)
An artist's impression of a HS2 train. (PA)

Senior Tories have warned Rishi Sunak that scrapping the HS2 line from Birmingham to Manchester would be a "gross act of vandalism".

The prime minister is reportedly considering ditching or delaying the Manchester leg of the controversial rail project ahead of the Conservative Party conference in the city this weekend.

But writing in The Times on Monday, former chancellor George Osborne and ex-deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine warned Sunak: "“Governments are remembered for what they build and create.

"Make this mistake and yours may only be known for what it cancelled and curtailed.”

The HS2 network has been beset by delays. (PA)
The HS2 network has been beset by delays. (PA)

If the northern section of the line was cancelled, they said “the remaining stump, little more than a shuttle service from Birmingham to a London suburb, would become an international symbol of our decline”.

Work on the project at Euston Station has been paused, meaning Old Oak Common in west London will be the only HS2 hub in the city when services to and from Birmingham Curzon Street begin between 2029 and 2033.


- Rishi Sunak urged to back HS2 to Manchester despite cost fears (PA Media)

- Scrapping HS2 line to Manchester would be 'gross act of vandalism' (Sky News)

- HS2 decision signals rail project going ‘off-track’ (Herald Scotland)

Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt will reportedly discuss the future of HS2 this week, amid concerns over soaring costs.

On Sunday, defence secretary Grant Shapps - formerly the transport secretary - told BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that it would be “crazy” not to reconsider the project because of the rising costs and the UK’s economic situation.

Watch: HS2 cannot have 'open-ended cheque' as Sunak set to wield axe

Shapps said the government could not write an "open-ended cheque" for HS2, which has so far cost more than £100bn, three times its initial estimate a decade ago.

The first phase between London and Birmingham was supposed to open at the end of 2026, but this has been pushed back to between 2029 and 2033. The second phase, originally scheduled to open in 2032, is now expected as late at 2040.

The delays and U-turns of the beleaguered HS2 project:

January 2009

The then Labour government sets up HS2 Ltd to look at the case for building a high-speed railway line.

January 2012

HS2 is given the green light by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, despite concerns about its cost and its impact on the environment. It has an initial budget of £32bn.

June 2013

The projected cost of delivering HS2 rises to £42bn.

An aerial view of the entrance to the Chiltern Tunnels at the south portal HS2 align compound, in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Picture date: Wednesday November 3, 2021.
An aerial view of the entrance to the Chiltern Tunnels, part of the work on the HS2 network. (PA)

September 2015

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee notes that the new projected cost for HS2 is £56bn.

June 2016

The National Audit Office warns the project is already under financial strain and could be delayed by a year.

August 2019

The government announces a review of HS2 which will analyse whether it should continue to go ahead, with the Department for Transport promising a “go or no-go” decision by the end of that year.

The review will be led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee.

 A demonstrator carries a
A demonstrator carries a 'Stop HS2' banner during a protest in London. (PA)

Later that month, the BBC reports the government and HS2 bosses knew the project was over budget and behind schedule three years previously in 2016.

September 2019

HS2 Ltd chairman Allan Cook says HS2 may not be completed until 2040 and could cost as much as £88bn.

January 2020

The Oakervee Review is delivered and finds that costs have ballooned even more, projecting an overall cost of £106bn.

However, the report finds that the project should continue.

That same month, the National Audit Office accuses the government of underestimating the complexity of the project, saying it is impossible to say with certainty just how much the final cost of HS2 could be.

February 2020

Despite the concerns, prime minister Boris Johnson gives another green light to HS2, approving the entire line.

May 2020

MPs say the HS2 project has gone “badly off course” and that further increases in costs cannot be ruled out.

A general view during a tour of the HS2 site at Old Oak Common station in west London. Picture date: Thursday August 10, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story RAIL HS2. Photo credit should read: Lucy North/PA Wire
The HS2 site at Old Oak Common station in west London. (PA)

The all-party Public Accounts Committee accuses the Department for Transport of hiding information about delays and cost overruns.

September 2020

Formal construction on HS2 begins, with Johnson saying it is an “incredible” project and “crucial for our country”.

September 2021

MPs say there is “no clear end in sight” to the cost and delays of HS2.

Undated artist impression issued by HS2 of the proposed HS2 station at Euston.
An artist's impression of the proposed HS2 station at Euston, London, which has been put on hold. (PA)

The Public Accounts Committee said it is “increasingly alarmed” about key parts of the project.

October 2021

The government says that dealing with anti-HS2 protests has cost the high speed rail project up to £80m.

Johnson tells the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that his government “will do Northern Powerhouse Rail, we will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North”.

November 2021

The government is accused of committing a 'great robbery' as transport secretary Grant Shapps confirms that the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds has been scrapped.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Northern Powerhouse Rail – the name given to proposals for an east-to-west high-speed train line across the North – had been “a fraud”.

A general view during a tour of the HS2 site at Old Oak Common station in west London. Picture date: Thursday August 10, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story RAIL HS2. Photo credit should read: Lucy North/PA Wire
Workers at the HS2 site at Old Oak Common station in west London. (PA)

July 2022

A £3bn branch of the High Speed 2 network designed to speed up rail journeys between London and Scotland is quietly ditched by ministers, provoking outrage from rail industry groups.

March 2023

Transport Secretary Mark Harper announces the delay of the Birmingham to Crewe leg of HS2, blaming increased costs and inflation.

Undated artist impression handout  issued by HS2 of a early visualisation of HS2 trains. Designs of HS2's 225mph trains have been recognised for their environmental credentials, according to the company building the high-speed railway. PA Photo. Issue date: Sunday September 3, 2023. HS2 Ltd said its trains are the first in the world to achieve the British Standard Institute's PAS 2080 global accreditation. See PA story RAIL HS2. Photo credit should read: HS2/PA Wire
An artist's impression of HS2 trains. (PA)

In a written statement to MPs, Harper also confirms the government will be prioritising HS2 services between the Midlands and Old Oak Common outside central London, meaning commuters from Birmingham to the capital will have to continue their journeys from the western suburbs using the Tube, adding journey time.

Harper's announcement does not appear to give a definitive date of when HS2 will be completed so people can travel direct into London Euston.

September 2023

Prime minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering delaying or scrapping the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2.

Workers are seen on a recently developed viaduct which will bring HS2 services into Birmingham city centre at the site of the HS2 project at Curzon Street Station. Picture date: Monday July 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story RAIL HS2. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire
Workers at a viaduct which will bring HS2 services into Birmingham city centre. (PA)

Senior Tories George Osborne and Lord Heseltine warn Sunak that doing so would be a "gross act of vandalism".

But former transport secretary Grant Shapps said it would be "crazy" and "irresponsible" for the government not to reconsider the project as costs continue to spiral.

Watch: Labour Party want to see HS2 completed in full