The estimated cost for phase one of the UK’s High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project has risen by £800 million (€881 million), only a month after the government gave the green light for construction to proceed.
Furthermore, within the next six months, new figures will be published, detailing additional costs associated with the impact of Covid-19 on the project.
As it stands, the proposed cost for the redevelopment of London’s Euston Station alone has increased by £400 million (€440 million).
Nevertheless, after halting work on HS2 last year, to carry out an independent inquiry, the government decided the project – which will see high-speed trains running between London in the south of England and Manchester and Leeds in the north – was an essential part of the country’s low carbon transport future.
Announcing the new figures this week, Andrew Stephenson, the minister in charge of overseeing the project, said there had been new “cost pressures” but maintained they could be managed within the project’s £5.3 billion (€5.8 billion) contingency fund. He did, however, admit that the continuing pandemic could also cause further delays to the delivery of the project.
Phase one was originally set to be completed in 2026, but has latterly been rescheduled for between 2029 and 2033. Even here, Stephenson suggested there were “some pressures on the earliest date”.
Currently, phase one of HS2 is expected to cost in the region of £44.6 billion (€49.2 billion).
On phase two, which recently had cost estimates running as high as £106 billion (€117 billion), Stephenson said he expected the work to be completed within a new target of £98 billion (€108 billion).
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “While the project has faced some cost pressures in carrying out preparatory works, the government still expects HS2 Ltd to deliver Phase 1 at the target cost of £40.3bn [€44.5 billion], below the overall funding envelope of £44.6bn [€49.2 billion].
“As construction continues, this government remains relentlessly focused on controlling costs, to ensure this ambitious new railway delivers its wealth of benefits at value for money for the taxpayer.”
HS2 is currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project and is employing many of Europe’s largest contractors, including Vinci, Skanska, Strabag, Balfour Beatty, Eiffage, Kier and BAM Nuttall.
Between these and other tier one contractors, some 22,000 workers are expected to be recruited for the construction of phase one.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that, as well as being “vital in boosting connectivity between our towns and cities,” HS2 would create “hundreds of apprenticeships and thousands of skilled jobs,” which, he said, will “fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunity across this country for years to come”.