THE British government has announced it will delay the construction of sections of HS2 by two years to reduce costs, prioritising the section between Old Oak Common in London and Birmingham Curzon Street.

In a written ministerial statement given to parliament on March 9, transport secretary, Mr Mark Harper, said investment in transport infrastructure including rail had faced headwinds from inflation, triggered by the war in Ukraine, as well as supply chain disruption as the global economy recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The government is committed to delivering HS2 Phase 2a between Birmingham and Crewe,” Harper says. “We have seen significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs, and so we will rephase construction by two years, with an aim to deliver high-speed services to Crewe and the northwest as soon as possible after accounting for the delay in construction.”

Harper says work will continue on progressing commitments made in the Integrated Rail Plan to develop HS2 East, the proposed route between the West and East Midlands, and to consider the most effective way to take HS2 services to Leeds.

The delivery of the section from Old Oak Common to Euston station in central London would be delivered alongside the construction of the high-speed line to Manchester.

“We remain committed to delivering HS2 services to Euston, and will address affordability pressures to ensure the overall spending profile is manageable,” Harper says. “We will therefore take the time to ensure we have an affordable and deliverable station design.”

Harper says the government has already spent more than £20bn delivering HS2 Phase 1 between London and Birmingham. The High-Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill will continue through parliament, and the Crewe - Manchester section of HS2 will still form the foundation for improved rail services in northern England through the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme, he says.

“These are the difficult but responsible decisions we are taking, that put the priorities of the British people first, in controlling inflation and reducing government debt,” Harper says. “They continue our record investment in our national infrastructure, which will continue to play a vital role in growing our economy and delivering long-term prosperity.”

HS2 services were scheduled to carry the first passengers between Old Oak Common station in west London and Birmingham between 2029 and 2033. The HS2 station at Euston in central London had been scheduled to open by 2035. Further phases of the project to Crewe and then to Manchester were due by 2034 and 2041 respectively.

Most of the eastern HS2 branch to Leeds was scrapped in 2021. The cost of the high-speed project has increased significantly from £33bn in 2010 to at least £71bn.

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