UK high-speed rail project could cost 88 bln pounds and not be completed on time: report

2019-09-10 10:00:12
Summary:Britain's biggest ever rail project High Speed 2 (HS2) will cost billions more than expected and be delayed ...
Britain's biggest ever rail project High Speed 2 (HS2) will cost billions more than expected and be delayed by years, a government report revealed on Tuesday.

The project aims to create a high-speed rail service between London and Britain's second largest city Birmingham before reaching the north of the country. Mired in controversy because of its spiraling costs and damage to the countryside and communities along the route, the government is currently carrying out a review of the project.

Britain's Transport Secretary Grant Shapps released details of advice provided to the government by Allan Cook, the chairman of HS2 Ltd., on the cost and deliverability of the current scheme.

According to the report, Cook does not believe that the current scheme can be delivered for its original budget of 55.7 billion British pounds (67.3 billion U.S. dollars), set in 2015 prices. Instead, he estimates that the current scheme requires a total budget in the range of 81 billion pounds to 88 billion pounds in 2019 prices.

Regarding the timetable, Shapps said Cook believed that the current schedule of 2026 for initial services on HS2's Phase One, linking London and Birmingham, is unrealistic.

"In line with lessons from other major transport infrastructure projects, Cook's advice proposes a range of dates for the start of service. He recommends 2028 to 2031 for Phase One linking London and Birmingham," Shapps said.

The report expects the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds to open between 2035 and 2040. Currently, the extension from Birmingham to northern England is scheduled to be completed by 2033.

Shapps said a panel set up by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to review the entire project. And the review is expected to be completed later this fall.

"I will discuss its findings with the prime minister and the chancellor of the exchequer. Its recommendations will inform our decisions on our next steps," said Shapps.

Shapps added: "HS2 is the single largest project of this government. One important aspect of the panel's work is to consider whether both the costs and the benefits of the scheme have been correctly identified."

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