The schedule for delivering High Speed 2 may not be realistic, according to a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.
The committee has expressed its concern that the proposed opening date for Phase 1 of the new line between London and Birmingham of December 2026 may slip by a year, while there remains ‘considerably uncertainty’ about both the route and cost of Phase 2. Phase 2a is presently due to open to Crewe in 2027, with the remainder of the route to Manchester and Leeds due to follow as Phase 2b in 2033.
The PAC says HS2 Ltd is currently only 60% confident of meeting the 2026 target for Phase 1, and is assessing the impact of extending the opening date by up to 12 months. The committee is calling for ‘a realistic timetable’ to be set out when the Route of Phase 2b is announced in the autumn. The PAC also says a ‘firm cost estimate’ for Phase 2 should be provided, along with the basis on which the route in South Yorkshire was chosen, in the light of plans to change the route here away from a parkway station at Meadowhall to a new line further east with a spur to Sheffield city centre. The PAC says the report outlining these plans contained no quantification of the benefits of each proposal, and also notes that fewer trains will stop at Sheffield than would have done at the Meadowhall station under the original plans.
Concern is also expressed about securing the skills needed to deliver the Department for Transport’s major transport infrastructure plans. This is seen as ‘a key challenge that will also impact on project costs’, and the PAC is calling for a progress report in 12 months’ time. Further allocation of regeneration funding may also be needed to support growth around HS2 stations, as this is not typically covered within the project’s budget. The PAC says DfT should seek assurance from local authorities that they have plans in place to identify sources of funding and financing to secure these benefits.
Finally, the PAC says it is not clear how HS2 will interact with the rest of the transport system, with a ‘particularly pressing’ issue being the design of trains for the route and how they will be compatible with the rest of the network.