Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said ‘any outcome is possible’ on HS2 amid fears the project could be scrapped after a review into its future is completed.
The next steps for the high speed rail scheme, including whether it is going to happen, are something ‘we will know the answer to’ by the end of the year once a Government-commissioned independent review has been looked at, he said.
Asked if HS2 could be scrapped after the review, Mr Shapps told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday said that ‘once you start with a blank piece of paper and you say to the person doing the review and his team, ‘give me the facts’, then any outcome is possible from that, yes’.
The review, which has been launched amid growing concern that HS2 cannot be built to its current specification within the £55.7 billion budget, is being led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee with Lord Berkeley – a long-term critic of the high-speed railway scheme – acting as his deputy.
The proposed journey times for HS2 passengers (in red) verses the current times (blue)
Mr Shapps said: ‘Just because a project has already taken a lot of money, and even if the projections continue to rise in terms of the costs, it cannot be right not to stop and take a look at it.
‘We are spending taxpayers’ money and that money can only be spent once, so you have got to spend it wisely.’
Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘If this review is about building the right railway for Britain in the 21st century at the right cost and minimising waste, that’s OK, I will support that because I still have some concerns about the design and the cost of HS2.
‘However, if this review is about scrapping it, then the Government had better get ready for an almighty fight with the big cities of the north and, I understand, the Midlands too.’
Concerns have also been raised by Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward who feels ‘a U-turn would be disastrous’.
Pictured is the HS2rail route, showing phase one (dark blue line), two A (light blue line) and two B (orange line) as well as existing services that will use the network (yellow line)
HS2 may have to run slower and less frequent trains to slash costs, its chief executive previously admitted. The graphic pictured details how much the new HS2 line is costing
Liverpool BID chief executive Bill Addy has said the latest announcement ‘spreads doubt, uncertainty and frustration among business leaders in the north’ while Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, has said ‘HS2 is mission critical for the West Midlands’, Mr Shapps was told.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has said the review will consider a number of factors relating to HS2, including its benefits, impacts, affordability, efficiency, deliverability, scope and phasing.
A final report is to be sent to Mr Shapps – with oversight from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Sajid Javid – by the autumn.
The first part of the rail line is due to open between London and Birmingham by the end of 2026, with a second phase between Leeds and Manchester scheduled to be finished by 2033.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, pictured, said a report on HS2 would be completed by the autumn
Despite warnings that HS2 could cost up to £100billion, the Transport Secretary has previously insisted the scheme was on time and on budget.
HS2 bosses have previously said they are considering running fewer services and slower trains in order to save cash and ensure the 225mph rail link between London, Birmingham and up to the North can be delivered.
In June previous transport secretary Chris Grayling first revealed plans for a review to see if the scheme was ‘deliverable’.
He also indicated that parts of the high-speed rail link could be scaled back in the wake of the Crossrail debacle, which is due to open two years later in December 2020 and as much as £2.8billion over budget.