In a widely trailed announcement, the government is expected today (11.2.20) to give the go-ahead for the entire HS2 project to be built. The mega-project linking London to Birmingham and then on to Manchester and Leeds will get the green light from Boris Johnson’s administration, although the government will look to review the second phase covering the north.
The review of the northern stretch of the line is likely to attract criticism from politicians and businesses in the region who have been very vocal to date about the necessity of the complete line being constructed in order to open up the region, boosting connectivity and business prospects. The government however believes that a review can identify cost savings as well as integrating HS2 into existing railways.
To ward off criticism from all sides, including those who believe that HS2 will be built at the expense of improving connectivity in neglected UK regions, the government is also expected to announce a raft of other transport projects across the country including significant investment is bus services. According to the BBC, some of these projects will be situated in the north of England and the Midlands as part of the government’s election manifesto commitments to “level up” the UK by investing more in regions outside of London.
The announcement of the long-awaited go-ahead for HS2 will be widely welcomed by the construction industry which sees the project as a crucial project with the potential to give a much-needed boost to the sector and to the UK economy. It’s challenge now will be to deliver the project on time and to budget – no mean feat given the project’s already spiralling costs. In 2015, HS2’s cost was estimated at £56bn, but a recent review has warned that it could rise to as much as £106bn.
Construction on the second phase of HS2, originally planned to link Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham with Leeds, is widely rumoured to be the subject of a further review in a bid to find ways of making it more affordable. The government also wants to ensure that the second phase of the project can be better integrated into the existing railway network along with other planned upgrades such as the much talked about Northern Powerhouse Rail, a project to improve east-west links across the north of England.
The entire HS2 project is expected to be completed by 2040.