Media speculation in the UK is suggesting that the HS2 high-speed rail project planned to connect London and the North of England might not now go ahead.
While not mentioning HS2 specifically, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss wrote at the weekend that government ministers should be prepared to drop expensive “white elephant” (useless or troublesome) projects. This is being widely assumed to include the controversial rail project, and comes after claims that the cost of the project has been underestimated.
Also, London’s Crossrail – once the biggest project in Europe – has missed its target of opening in 2018, and is now expected to start operating in 2019. The chairman of Crossrail and HS2, Sir Terry Morgan, resigned from both roles last month. He became chairman of Crossrail in 2009, but had been in charge of HS2 for four months.
HS2 is designed to connect London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester, and is currently estimated to cost £56 billion (€62.38 billion), which is 71% more than the initial estimate of £32.7 billion (€36.44 billion), made in 2010.
Truss, who is responsible for public expenditure including spending reviews and strategic planning, wrote that she would examine all major government-funded investment projects.
Amidst suggestions that HS2 costs could rise far above the current estimates to as much as £100 billion (€111.4 billion), her remarks are being regarded as a strong hint that the rail project could be axed.
Work started on phase one of HS2 in 2017 with the first passengers expected to use the high speed line in 2026.