HS2 SHOULD still be built in spite of rising costs, according to a newspaper report based on a leaked version of the Oakervee review.
The Times says it has seen a draft version of the review, and that high speed lines could boost cities in the North and Midlands because there would be better intercity connections.
The review apparently warns there are no ‘shovel-ready’ alternative ways of increasing rail capacity, and that without such increases to cater for growth in demand, peak travel would have to be deliberately suppressed by large fare rises.
Until recently the official cost of the scheme linking London and Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds was £55.7 billion, but it then emerged that the figure would be not far short of £80 billion.
Even this may not be the end of the story. The review is said to include a revised estimate of £88 billion, which it warns is likely to rise still further.
The review admits that the higher costs have cut the estimated benefits to taxpayers from £2.30 for every pound spent to as little as £1.30.
Doug Oakervee also found that the procurement strategy for Phase 1 has been a failure, because of inflated prices.
The review was launched by Boris Johnson in August before he was elected Conservative Party leader and became Prime Minister, and it had been due to be published around the end of October until a General Election was called for 12 December. This was expected to delay the publication of government reports like the Oakervee Review.
The need for HS2 has often been questioned by some MPs and Peers.
The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has been particularly critical. In May this year it recommended that the northern sections of HS2 should be built first, and combined with Northern Powerhouse Rail.
On the other hand, former Network Rail CEO David Higgins often asserted that the West Coast Main Line was being ‘trashed’ by its very heavy traffic, and that new capacity between London, the Midlands and North was essential.