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Review could derail £55bn HS2 project | Politics News

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An “independent and rigorous” review into the future of the HS2 rail link has been announced by the government.

The exercise will consider whether the £55bn project should still go ahead, or if changes need to be made to elements of the scheme.

Chaired by former Crossrail and HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee, it will look at a number of areas concerning the project, including affordability, efficiency and deliverability.

Undated handout file image issued by HS2 of the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct, part of the proposed route for the HS2 high speed rail scheme. Troubled construction giant Carillion is among the firms awarded contracts for the building of phase one of the HS2 rail line, the Government has announced
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Critics say the project is too expensive and environmentally damaging

A final report will be produced in the autumn, the Department for Transport said.

If completed, HS2 would connect London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow with up to 18 trains an hour at a top speed of 225mph.

But critics say the scheme is too expensive and environmentally damaging.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The prime minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.

“Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”

Speaking to Sky News last week, Mr Shapps said the review would be a “root and branch” exercise “to make a decision by the end of the year, a sort of go/no decision”.

He added: “What we can’t have is a project that constantly runs out of control with taxpayers’ money.”

Allan Cook, the chairman of the project, reportedly wrote to the Department of Transport last month to warn that the cost could spiral upwards still further – by £30bn.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this month: “I do think it’s only responsible as an incoming government, with all the controversy surrounding the spend on HS2, which will probably be north of £100bn, it’s only responsible to have a short review without interrupting the timetable at Curzon Street or anywhere else.”

At the moment, the main construction work is due to begin later this year.

The first phase of the high-speed railway is currently scheduled to open between London and Birmingham in late 2026.

Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe is due to launch in 2027, followed by Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds, in 2033.

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