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Rumours grow over future of HS2

THE future of HS2 appears to be increasingly in doubt, as reports suggest that the forthcoming Oakervee Review will axe Phase 2b between the West Midlands and Yorkshire and possibly cancel the project entirely.

The review, which is being carried out by former HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee with frequent HS2 critic Lord Berkeley as his deputy, was commissioned by prime minister Boris Johnson in August. They have been probing the scheme’s costs, in the wake of a warning by the project’s present chairman Allan Cook that the official budget of £55.7 billion was likely to be exceeded by some £30 billion.

However, some sources have been suggesting that the eventual cost of all the phases could top £100 billion.

Another possibility is that Phase 1 between London and Birmingham could be built more cheaply for lower speeds, which would reduce the new line’s capacity and lengthen journey times but still reduce the pressure on the West Coast Main Line, where paths are in short supply.

The Department for Transport said: ‘The secretary of state published the Allan Cook report as soon as Parliament returned, providing the Chairman’s updated assessment of costs and schedule.

‘The independent review into HS2, led by Douglas Oakervee with Lord Berkeley as deputy and a panel of advisers, will provide the department with clear advice on how and whether the project should proceed.

‘We are not going to pre-empt or prejudice this work with a running commentary on progress.’

Midlands Connect had said it would be ‘submitting compelling evidence to the review concerning the benefits of HS2 to the whole of the Midlands‘.

MC director Maria Machancoses said: ‘The massive benefits of HS2 to the Midlands are already being felt. Although a review must rightly scrutinise the project’s deliverability, benefits and costs, we must not lose sight of the fact that HS2 will transform our transport network for the next century. Scrapping it or de-scoping it would be a disaster for the Midlands and the whole country.’

The review’s conclusions are set be published at the end of next week.

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