HS2: Labour could change plans after promising to ‘build it in full’

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh (Photo: Jonathan Brady)
Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh (Photo: Jonathan Brady)

Keir Starmer’s party has promised to deliver the original plans on numerous occassions and ensure high-speed lines are built between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

But the Yorkshire Post understands Labour is reviewing its plans for HS2, amid concerns about rising costs, and could row back on its promise.

It comes as the party is tipped to win the upcoming election, which is expected next year, as it has a significant lead in the opinion polls.

An early representation of what the new HS2 trains could look like. PIC: HS2/PA Wire
An early representation of what the new HS2 trains could look like. PIC: HS2/PA Wire

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said Labour will deliver “infrastructure fit for the century ahead” earlier this week but refused to elaborate.

Reports suggest Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering plans to shelve the northern section of HS2 – running from Birmingham to Manchester – to save up to £34bn.

He has faced calls to abandon the project, after a series of delays and design changes, as the cost could now reach £71bn.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman has said “spades are already" in the ground” and “we’re focused on delivering it” – but he would not promise the line will reach Manchester.

Ministers scrapped the eastern leg to Leeds back in 2021 – but the Department for Transport is currently conducting a study which will look at whether HS2 services can run to the city via another route.

The Government has been previously been accused of mismanaging the high-speed rail project and making a series of short-sighted decisions that are causing the overall cost to soar.

HS2 was recently given an “unachievable” rating by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which said there are “major issues” that “do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.

Mr Harper announced in March that the Birmingham to Crewe stretch of HS2 would be delayed by two years to spread out spending after inflation caused costs to rise significantly.

The National Audit Office (NAO) warned the move “could lead to an overall increase in spend in the long term”, adding: “This is due to the costs of, for example, its supply chain stopping and re-starting work; contractual changes; and managing the site and project for longer.”

Mr Harper also said the Government was pausing construction work on a new HS2 station in Euston for two years, so it could save money and come up with new designs.

Trains are now not expected to run into the station in central London until 2041 at the earliest after initially being scheduled for 2026, and the cost is predicted to balloon from £2.6 bn to £4.8bn.

The latest plans state Phase 1, linking London and the West Midlands, is expected to cost up to £45bn and open between 2029 to 2033.

Phase 2a, linking West Midlands to Crewe, is due to be delivered between 2030 and 2034, and cost up to £7bn. While Phase 2b, linking Crewe and Manchester, is expected to cost up to £19bn and open between 2035 to 2041.