HS2: cost review threatens northern connections

Stations proposed for Phase 2 of HS2 near Manchester Airport and at Sheffield's Meadowhall could be axed to control costs of the second 'Y' shaped extension of the overall project. According to reports in the Sunday Times, these hub connections under threat, contrary to government's Northern Powerhouse hopes for invigorating development in the north to rebalance the UK's economy.

Whitehall's top civil servant, cabinet secretary Sir Jermey Heywood is understood to be reviewing the HS2 project to keep costs under control, with a report expected to be delivered to Ministers this Summer, according to the Guardian.

The HS2 Hybrid Bill for Phase 1 from Euston to Birmingham is currently being read in the House of Lords and is expected to reach Royal Assent before the end of this year to allow construction to begin in Spring 2017. In 2013 the capital costs of the whole Y network were estimated by HS2 Ltd at £30bn to £36bn, although an additional £5bn has been added to account for inflation. This is after a link to HS1 and the Heathrow Spur were dropped from the project.

According to the Gurdian, Heywood is reviewing HS2 as part of a cross-government group working for the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. The review is understood to be holding up a Cabinet Office Review Point 1 assessment of whether HS2 Ltd is fit to deliver the scheme on time and within budget.

Any threat to northern hub connections will anger Ministers of northern constituencies and others calling for more evidence of delivery to back up rhetoric of the Northern Powerhouse agenda. HS2 Ltd is reported to be confident that construction of the circa £20bn Phase 1, including £7bn of tunneling and surface works contracts, will start on time with further inviations to tender expected later this year.