The running of HS2 services to central London could be delayed by nearly a decade after the government announced an overhaul of the construction timeline to bring down costs.
In a statement to parliament, Mark Harper, the transport secretary, revealed the government would delay the completion of the part of the line set to run into Euston until potentially 2041, as it looked to come up with a more affordable and deliverable station design.
This now means when the rail line first opens, services will only run from Birmingham Curzon Street to Old Oak Common Station in Acton, west London.
Mr Harper said it would now look to prioritise this part of the line to ensure that it hit its planned completion date in the early 2030s.
The Telegraph understands that the delivery of Euston Station, which was supposed to open in 2033, will now be aligned with the delivery of the line from Crewe to Manchester which is scheduled to be completed between 2035 and 2041
Mr Harper said: “We remain committed to delivering HS2 services to Euston, and will address affordability pressures to ensure the overall spending profile is manageable.
“We will therefore take the time to ensure we have an affordable and deliverable station design, delivering Euston alongside high-speed infrastructure to Manchester.”
However, Thursday’s announcement casts doubt over whether it will even hit the 2035-41 target date with significant changes happening to the delivery of the scheme so early in its construction.
The HS2 line was initially expected to cost just £33bn back in 2010. However, cost increases and inflation has seen its budget balloon to £71bn, with some estimates expecting it to break the £100bn barrier.
This has led to the government carrying out a series of reviews in recent months, to look at how to bring down costs.
Mr Harper revealed that to further cut costs the £7.6 stretch from Birmingham and Crewe, would have its construction pushed back by two years.
The whole Euston station project is estimated to cost around £2.6bn when completed. However, the design of the station has been plagued with issues with much of the original design being scrapped due to costs.
Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been ploughed into work on the station, including significant tunnelling work.
Wide scale cuts
Cost-saving measures to HS2 were announced as part of wide scale cuts by the Department for Transport to planned infrastructure schemes across its portfolio, as inflationary pressures bite.
This included plans to delay dozens of major road schemes, while significantly reducing the amount of money available to walking and cycling schemes.
Commenting on the budget pressures his department Mr Harper said that its capital spend plans had been hit by the headwinds of inflation and supply chain disruption.
He said: “These headwinds have made it difficult to deliver on our capital programmes, and we recognise that some schemes are going to take longer than expected.”
However, this was met with criticism by some HS2 advocates who said the delays would not have their desired effect of leading to cheaper delivery.
‘Delaying projects doesn’t make them cheaper’
Henri Murison, Chief Executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Delaying projects – whether it’s train lines or hospitals – doesn’t make them cheaper, it only holds back economic benefits and increases the overall scheme costs further in the long run.
Among those other transport projects set to be delayed to save costs is the £9bn Lower Thames Crossing project, which will be pushed back by two years.
The scheme, which is the UK’s most expensive road project, will see a tunnel built under the Thames linking Kent and Essex has been beset by delays through the planning process.
A further 32 schemes which were set to be delivered between 2025 and 2030, will now not be started until after 2030 and could potentially be canned altogether.
Mr Harper said: “This extra time will help ensure better planned and efficient schemes can be deployed more effectively.”
Hundreds of millions of pounds that have been set aside for walking and cycling projects are also set to be axed, under the DfT cuts. Active travel charity Sustrans believe the cuts could equate to £800m over this parliament.