Future of HS2 in the balance as Boris Johnson orders review into 'whether' it should proceed
The future of HS2 hangs in the balance after Boris Johnson ordered a review into “whether” it should proceed.
The exercise will investigate whether the multi-billion rail project linking London with the Midlands and northern England represents value for money amid spiralling costs.
Led by former HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee, ministers have said it "will look at whether and how HS2 should proceed".
It will also look at the “benefits and impacts” as well as the “deliverability and scope” of the scheme, and will report back to Mr Johnson and the Chancellor in the Autumn.
Announcing the review, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK.
“But that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.”
Mr Johnson has longfavoured ambitious infrastructure projects, but has previously expressed concerns over the cost of HS2.
During the Tory leadership contest he said there was "a legitimate question to ask about how the money is being spent".
The PM added: "Just in my own constituency in Uxbridge they suddenly discovered that they did not have a sufficiently long extension lead for the tunnel boring machines.
"They had to spend £20 million digging under the road. Is the money being wisely spent? Could we spend it better?
"But as I have said many times I am a big, big passionate supporter of great public infrastructure, I think it's vital for our country."
Last month the current HS2 chairman Allan Cook revealed the cost of the controversial project could rise by £30 billion.
It was reported he had written to the Department for Transport to say it could no longer be delivered within its initial £56 billion budget.
Mr Oakervee, who oversaw construction of Hong Kong airport and was one of the key designers of the Jubilee line extension, has assembled an expert panel including chairman of Network Rail and former boss of Transport for London, Sir Peter Hendy, and West Midlands mayor Andy Street.
Together they will “consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project”.
He said: “I am looking forward to working with my deputy, Lord Berkeley, to advise the government on how and whether to progress with HS2, based on all existing evidence.”