HS2 phase 2a delayed amid ‘significant inflationary pressure’

Multiple sections of HS2 are going to be delayed as the government grapples with the spiralling costs.

Delays have been announced for phase 2a, which is between Birmingham and Crewe, as well as the construction of the HS2 Euston terminus.

“Significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs” on phase 2a of the project mean construction work will be pushed back by two years, according to a ministerial statement by transport secretary Mark Harper. Also, he has only pledged to open new high-speed rail services to Crewe and the North West “as soon as possible accounting for the delay in construction”.

Full operation of the London terminus at Euston is also being pushed back so that it is delivered alongside phase 2b. But Harper insisted the government “remains committed to delivering HS2 services to Euston”.

“[We will] address affordability pressures to ensure the overall spending profile is manageable,” he said, adding that the government’s focus is on having “an affordable and deliverable station design” at Euston.

It was already clear that, initially, the line would be pared back to terminate at Old Oak Common when the delivery of Euston station was decoupled from phase one of the rail line after recommendations made in the Oakervee Review.

The delays will not affect the the bill covering HS2 phase 2b progressing through parliament, Harper said. The bill is currently at committee stage, having gone through two readings in the House of Commons.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has made clear his plan to bring down debt ahead of next week’s Budget. Harper said delaying HS2 should help to spread its cost over a longer period, which would reduce annual expenditure.

It is the latest iteration of a government-led push to decrease the cost of HS2, known as Operation Blue Diamond.

The launch of HS2 has already been pushed back. The timetable for the opening of phase 1 already slipped from an initial date of 2026 to between 2029 and 2033. The opening date for phase 2a has also been pushed back to between 2035 and 2041 rather than the initially announced 2033 date.

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