HS2 should go ahead despite soaring costs, according to a review of the rail project.
The leaked document admits that it is ‘not affordable’ within the £56 billion budget set in the 2015 government spending review.
HS2 should go ahead despite soaring costs, according to a review of the rail project. An independently-led government review recommends ministers commit to the full proposed network connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds
The new estimate of £88 billion is likely to be increased again, the report noted.
The document warns that without the high-speed rail link ‘large ticket prices’ would be needed to put people off travelling at peak times.
There are also no ‘shovel ready’ alternative investments that could be made in the existing network to provide for much-needed additional rail capacity.
But the report, written by Douglas Oakervee, the former HS2 chairman, does admit the project – the biggest infrastructure project in Europe – is ‘not affordable’ within the current budget, The Times reports.
The review also found that HS2 could benefit cities in the north and midlands more than London because of improved connections on intercity lines.
Mr Oakervee suggested the journey from Leeds to Birmingham would be more than halved, to around 45 minutes, and that an hour would be cut from the journey time from Newcastle to Birmingham, to just under two hours.
HS2 has been dogged by delay, scandal and spiralling costs in recent years.
This prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to commission the independent review into the project.
The new estimate of £88 billion is likely to be increased again, the report noted. The document warns that without the high-speed rail link ‘large ticket prices’ would be needed to put people off travelling at peak times
It was originally scheduled to be published this autumn but it has been delayed until after the election.
The leak will put pressure on Mr Johnson to confirm whether a Tory government would go ahead with the network.
Mr Johnson has previously admitted the costs of the HS2 would probably be ‘north of £100bn’.
In September, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the first phase of the railway between London and Birmingham would be delayed by up to five years.
That section of the line was due to open at the end of 2026 but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route.
The second phase has been delayed. That route – from Birmingham to Manchester – was due to open in 2032-33 but that has been pushed back to 2035-2040.
The report found that the procurement strategy for the first phase has been a failure.
Prices have been significantly inflated, it says. It also says escalating costs mean the benefits to the taxpayers has dropped from £2.30 for every £1 spent in 2017 to between £1.30 and £1.50 for every £1 spent this year.
HS2’s top line speed is about 250mph, though most trains will only run at up to 225mph – still among some of the fastest in the world.
The review also found that HS2 could benefit cities in the north and midlands more than London because of improved connections on intercity lines
But the report said the maximum speed requirement for trains is ‘driving unacceptable costs’, with a lower speed target potentially able to keep costs down.
The report concludes that the reduced economic impact of the project does not consider its potential to impact homes and jobs.
It added: ‘The evidence is clear that the full network is needed to realise the highest value for money economic return on the investment of HS2. Phase one as a standalone scheme does not represent value for money.’