UK suspends construction on part of HS2 for two years

By Mike Hayes10 March 2023

The UK government has announced that work on a major element of the high-speed rail network known as HS2 will be significantly delayed, due to high costs.

Ongoing tunnel construction work on the UK’s High-Speed 2 rail network. Photo: HS2

Transport secretary Mark Harper said the government would “rephase construction by two years” on HS2 Phase 2a – primarily the line between Birmingham and Crewe – in the face of “significant inflationary pressure”.

There is also a suggestion that the completion of work on London’s Euston station could be delayed, as alternative and more affordable design options are examined.

The station is currently scheduled to be operational by 2035.

A number of road construction projects associated with the Birmingham-Crewe element of the project are also likely to be put on hold, although Harper insisted the government was “committed to delivering” HS2 in its current iteration.

Blighted by rising costs

The overall project, as it stands, is estimated to cost just over €80 billion – a significant hike from the estimate of €62.9 billion in 2015.

In 2010, the original budget for the project was just over €37 billion.

Ahead of the government’s announcement, HS2’s CEO Mark Thurston hinted at a delay, saying that inflation in the UK had had a significant effect on material, labour, energy and fuel costs.

He said, “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.”

In his written statement, Mark Harper said there were no plans to scrap the Birmingham-Crewe element of HS2. The rephasing of the project, he said, would be planned “with an aim to deliver high-speed services to Crewe and the northwest as soon as possible after accounting for the delay in construction.”

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