Timeline of HS2 issues and delays as some of train line’s construction is put back
The HS2 rail project has been beset by delays and soaring costs, and more setbacks are on the way.
The Government has announced that construction of part of HS2 will be delayed by two years to save money. However, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that the delay in linking up HS2 and Euston will result in substantial extra costs to the project, in a 50-page report to ministers released on Monday March 27.
The report, looking specifically at the Euston element of the high-speed line concluded a “reset” in 2020 had “not succeeded”. HS2 is meant to improve connections between London, the Midlands and the North-West by linking Manchester, Birmingham and London.
Earlier this month the transport secretary, Mark Harper, was criticised after announcing the construction of the Birmingham to Crewe leg of HS2 will be delayed by two years. In addition, although HS2 is supposed to terminate in central London, a lack of funds may mean the rail project will not run to Euston until 2038.
Speaking to the BBC, the chief executive of HS2, Mark Thurston, said the impact of inflation had been significant in the past year, “whether that’s in timber, steel, aggregates for all the concrete we need to use to build the job, labour, all our energy costs, fuel”.
He said the organisation was working with suppliers and the Government to find ways of mitigating this. “We’re looking at the timing of the project, the phasing of the project, we’re looking at where we can use our supply chain to secure a lot of those things that are costing us more through inflation,” he added.
The latest setbacks followed a string of issues for the project.
Here we look at the timeline of HS2 delays and U-turns.
The Labour government sets up HS2 Ltd after evaluating proposals in respect of the cost and benefits of enhancing capacity and connectivity with the new rail line. The first section would connect London and Birmingham by 2020 and cost £7bn.
The high-speed rail gets the go-ahead by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, with an initial budget of £32bn, inciting strong views in favour and against the scheme.
The project continues to fuel concerns among government officials, with costs rising to £42bn.
The NAO publishes a report on HS2’s progress and finance issues, which finds that the project is facing cost and schedule delivery problems and will be delayed by a year. It also said the HS2 team was looking to reduce costs, with a delay helping them with budget issues.
A BBC report finds the Government and HS2 bosses were aware the project was grossly over budget and behind schedule for the past three years.
HS2 Ltd chairman Allan Cook does not believe the project can be delivered within its £55.7bn budget and will be delayed.
The previous chairman of HS2, Douglas Oakervee, issues an independent review and says the project could cost as much as £108bn.
The NAO added it was uncertain what the final cost of the project could be.
The prime minister at the time, Boris Johnson, gives the project the green light despite rising concerns.
An independent construction commissioner is appointed to oversee HS2 Phase 2a route. However, MPs warn the project has gone “badly off course”.
HS2 formal construction begins but is met with some restoration work being “paused”, including Birmingham’s Curzon Street Station, originally built in 1838.
MPs from the transport committee and the public accounts committee travel to Birmingham for HS2 accountability sessions.
Major concerns arise about the projected increase in the time and money HS2 will need, with MPs saying there is “no clear end in sight” and the public accounts committee adding it is “increasingly alarmed” about vital parts of the project.
The HS2 route plan
MPs from both sides argue over the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), an initiative that aims to transform the rail network in the North and Midlands.
Despite clashes within Government and protests, Johnson announced we “will do Northern Powerhouse Rail, we will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North”.
The eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds is scrapped with no east-west line linking Leeds to Manchester being built, said the then Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps.
He added that the Oakervee review of HS2 showed a major rethink was needed, with the National Infrastructure Commission report meaning “a flexible approach” was needed.
But the Government is accused of a “great train robbery” by Labour shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon. He accused ministers of betraying the North.
The Oakervee Review is leaked to the Financial Times. It finds that HS2 could cost up to £106bn, but concludes “on balance” that the project should continue.
UK ministers come under fire for cancelling a £3bn section of HS2, which would have allowed Scotland to benefit from the rail line.
The SNP describes the move as a “sleekit” and “cowardly”.
Sturgeon and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham hold private meetings to discuss better alternatives when it comes to axing the Golborne link to take high-speed trains to Scotland.
Parts of Euston Road in London would close in early 2023, it was announced, to dig tunnels for the HS2, which is “well beyond the point of no return”.
The Government announces phase one of HS2, between Old Oak Common and Birmingham, is due to open around 2030 and the link to Euston is due to open between 2031 and 2035.
Activists said that justifications for the HS2 project “have gone out the window” after reports the Euston route could be axed due to rising costs. One of them, Dr Larch Maxey, said to the PA news agency: “It’s been clear to me for a couple of years now that HS2 is gonna get scrapped – our job as protesters is to bring forward the inevitable date when it does by helping to shine a light on it,” he said.
“As soon as anyone with any commonsense looks at HS2, they realise it has no place in a sensible world, we’ve won the argument, there is no argument.”
The Department for Transport considers the possibility of axing parts of HS2 due to rising costs, reports The Times. According to reports, completion of the project could now be as late as 2045.
And a mysterious brown foam began spewing out of the ground at Ruislip RFC, in west London, on the 24th, causing work on the project to be stopped for several hours. It was “most likely caused” by one of the tunnelling machines for the HS2 project. This raised concerns about what might happen if something similar was to happen under a more populous area in a city centre.
More delays for HS2 are announced by Mr Thurston in order to curb rising costs, with the route’s final destination yet to be confirmed as central London.
Mr Harper said: “We have seen significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs, and so we will rephrase 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. “
He also announced setbacks to key road projects as he blamed the pressures of soaring inflation and increasing costs. He said the impact of inflation has directly hit the HS2 project, saying budget issues have been significant.
“We are absolutely committed to delivering HS2 trains from London to Manchester and, of course, going over to the east as well,” said Thurston.
“But, of course, we have to look at cost pressures, it’s absolutely right that HS2 focuses on costs, that should be expected of the Government and the taxpayer, we’ll continue to do so.
“But … I am absolutely committed, as is the Secretary of State (Mark Harper) and the entire department, to delivering HS2 and the benefits for this country.”