HS2: All the delays and U-turns on £100bn rail project since it started

·4 min read
An artist's impression of a HS2 train. (PA)
An artist's impression of a HS2 train. (PA)

The government is to scrap a leg of the much maligned HS2 rail project that would have linked the Midlands and Leeds, it has been reported.

The £106bn High Speed 2 project has been beset by delays and cost re-evaluations ever since it was first put forward in 2009.

The new line was originally conceived to link London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds city centres.

But the BBC reported on Monday that the eastern leg to Leeds will be dropped.

Read more: All the green lights given to the controversial HS2 project

Instead, transport secretary Grant Shapps is expected to announce a new railway plan on Thursday, with new routes in the Midlands and the north of England.

It is just the latest blow to the HS2 project, which has ballooned in cost and angered residents and politicians.

Watch: Boris Johnson backs 'incredible' HS2 project

The first phase between London and Birmingham was supposed to open at the end of 2026, but this has been pushed back to between 2029 and 2033. The second phase, originally scheduled to open in 2032, is now expected as late at 2040.

The delays and U-turns of the beleaguered HS2 project:

January 2009

The then Labour government sets up HS2 Ltd to look at the case for building a high-speed railway line.

January 2012

HS2 is given the green light by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, despite concerns about its cost and its impact on the environment. It has an initial budget of £32bn.

June 2013

The projected cost of delivering HS2 rises to £42bn.

An aerial view of the entrance to the Chiltern Tunnels at the south portal HS2 align compound, in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Picture date: Wednesday November 3, 2021.
An aerial view of the entrance to the Chiltern Tunnels, part of the work on the HS2 network, on 3 November, 2021. (PA)

September 2015

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee notes that the new projected cost for HS2 is £56bn.

June 2016

The National Audit Office warns the project is already under financial strain and could be delayed by a year.

August 2019

The government announces a review of HS2 which will analyse whether it should continue to go ahead, with the Department for Transport promises a “go or no-go” decision by the end of that year. 

The review will be led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee. 

Later that month, the BBC reports the government and HS2 bosses knew the project was over budget and behind schedule three years previously in 2016.

September 2019

HS2 Ltd chairman Allan Cook says HS2 may not be completed until 2020 and could cost as much as £88bn.

January 2020

The Oakervee Review is delivered and finds that costs have ballooned even more, projecting an overall cost of £106bn. 

However, the report finds that the project should continue.

 A demonstrator carries a
A demonstrator carries a 'Stop HS2' banner during a protest in London. (PA)

That same month, the National Audit Office accuses the government of underestimating the complexity of the project, saying it is impossible to say with certainty just how much the final cost of HS2 could be.

February 2020

Despite the concerns, prime minister Boris Johnson gives another green light to HS2, approving the entire line.

May 2020

MPs say the HS2 project has gone “badly off course” and that further increases in costs cannot be ruled out.

Read more: HS2 costs ‘rose by £1.7bn in past year’

The all-party Public Accounts Committee accused the Department for Transport of hiding information about delays and cost overruns.

September 2020

Formal construction on HS2 begins, with Johnson saying it is an “incredible” project and “crucial for our country”.

September 2021

MPs say there is “no clear end in sight” to the cost and delays of HS2.

Undated artist impression issued by HS2 of the proposed HS2 station at Euston.
An artist's impression of the proposed HS2 station at Euston, London. (PA)

The Public Accounts Committee said it is “increasingly alarmed” about key parts of the project.

October 2021

The government says that dealing with anti-HS2 protests has cost the high speed rail project up to £80m.

Johnson tells the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester that his government “will do Northern Powerhouse Rail, we will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North”.

November 2021

However, despite the prime minister’s pledge, the government is poised to make a significant U-turn, as it will reportedly scrap the HS2 leg to Leeds.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Northern Powerhouse Rail – the name given to proposals for an east-to-west high-speed train line across the North – had been “a fraud”.

Watch: Rishi Sunak fails to commit to eastern HS2 Leeds leg

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