The HS2 rail project set to connect London and Manchester, is at risk of costing a total £106 Billion, according to an official government review yet to be published.
The report was leaked to the Financial Times, stating a ‘considerable risk’ that the estimated costs will rise by up to 20% – from £81 Billion reported four months ago by chairman, Allan Cook. Figures in 2015 claimed the cost would be £56 Billion.
The report further proposes potentially pausing work on phase 2b of HS2 from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds for six months – to allow experts to study whether conventional lines could help link Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, instead.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham told the BBC’s Today programme it would “not be acceptable” if the North of England portion of HS2 was delayed or downgraded to slower speeds.
“To me that would be the same old story. London to Birmingham, money is no object, and then all the penny pinching is done in the North of England,” he said.
Large construction firms based in the UK have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, highlighting the dangers that would emerge if the project were cancelled – thousands of jobs would be lost. Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Morgan Sindall, Costain, Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine are among firms arguing that a dearth of other big projects mean skills could be lost.
Co-executive director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, Claire Walker, told the BBC “Business communities are united that this project should be delivered and should be delivered in full.
“There is no project that has been proposed that will go so far in delivering the transformational change to the Northern business communities as this project will.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to decide within the next few weeks, whether to go ahead with construction on the first phase of what would be Europe’s largest infrastructure project. The government previously claimed that they would make a decision before the end of 2019. £8 Billion has already been spent on the project.