Thursday, 23 Mar 2023

HS2 'may not reach central London until 2041'

It may take until 2041 for HS2 to stop in the centre of London, Labour says.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh told MPs she had made the discovery in a leaked document ‘blowing apart’ claims about the setback made by the Government last week.

She said the memo shows senior officials ‘suggesting’ the train could terminate on the outskirts of the capital until 2041, meaning it would stop at Old Oak Common in west London for much longer than planned.

Passengers would have to change onto the Elizabeth line to get into Euston in central London.

The Government announced a two-year pushback to the construction of the Birmingham to Crewe leg of the line last Thursday.

Transport secretary Mark Harper blamed a ‘significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs’.

But Ms Haigh claims the leaked document she has seen proves the delays will create even more expenses.

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She said: ‘The Secretary of State’s chief justification were to balance the nation’s books, but here his own department admit what he will not, that the delays itself will increase costs.

‘They admit it will cost jobs, that construction firms could go bust. They cannot rule out slashing high-speed trains serving Stoke, Macclesfield and Stafford altogether.

‘Isn’t it time the minister came clean? This absurd plan will hit jobs, hurt growth, and cost taxpayers even more.

‘Even the Government has lost faith in this Government, and little wonder. Is there anything more emblematic of this failed Government than their flagship levelling up project that neither makes it to the North or to central London?’

Transport minister Huw Merriman responded: ‘Obviously we do not comment on leaked documents, certainly not documents that I have not been given at all.

‘I am very proud of what we are doing when it comes to delivering HS2. The construction of Curzon Street station in Birmingham, which remains as I have stated, is expected to create 36,000 new jobs.

‘In Manchester, to her point about not levelling up across the country, the redevelopment of Piccadilly station is expected to create 13,000 new homes.

‘In London the regeneration of Old Oak Common will contribute around £15 billion over the next 30 years. Those are figures to be proud of and we will deliver them.’

Elsewhere, the minister faced calls to reveal whether there would be further delays to the project, with Conservative chairman of the Commons transport committee asking: ‘Can we be assured this is the last delay to the project?’

Mr Merriman replied: ‘Whilst the pandemic and Putin’s illegal invasion… were not anticipated, we do expect these HS2 plans to be the plans that deliver it from London to Manchester.’

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