HS2 line between Birmingham and Crewe delayed by two years
The Birmingham to Crewe leg of high speed railway HS2 will be delayed by two years to cut costs.
The government suggested Euston station’s opening could also be delayed as an «affordable» design is worked on.
Transport secretary Mark Harper blamed soaring prices and said he was «committed» to the line linking London, the Midlands and North of England.
HS2 has been beset by delays and cost rises. In 2010, it was expected to cost £33bn but is now expected to be £71bn.
Mr Harper said «significant inflationary pressure» and increased project costs meant the government was to «rephase construction by two years».
He said the decision had been «difficult» but that it was part of «controlling inflation and reducing government debt».
Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, that he and the government were examining the phasing of the build and the timing.
John Foster from business group CBI said the delay would harm investor confidence in the rail sector.
«Delays to projects may create short-term savings, but they can ultimately lead to higher overall costs and slow down the UK’s transition to a better, faster and greener transport network,» Mr Foster added.
Labour said the decision to pause the HS2 at Birmingham was «astonishing».
Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said the party had committed to delivering HS2 in full if it gets into government, and to partly funding the work by its green prosperity plan.
The head of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Henri Murison, said the delay was «disappointing» and «holds back economic benefits».
The project is grappling with the rising cost of materials due to the high rate of inflation.
The government hopes that the delays will allow it to spread the cost over a longer period of time, making it more affordable by reducing annual expenditure.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who will outline his Budget next week, wants debt to fall as a percentage of GDP within five years — a target explicitly set by the Prime Minister.
Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire, which contains part of the HS2 line, said he would ask the government whether the delay «marks the end of HS2 north of Birmingham for good and whether HS2 will make good the damage already done in southern Staffordshire».
He added: «Simply saying the project is delayed is not good enough. The area has been blighted by whole fields turned into construction sites.»
Last week, Mr Thurston said the impact of inflation had been «significant» in the past year, affecting the costs of raw material, labour, energy and fuel.
«We’re looking at the timing of the project, the phasing of the project, we’re looking at where we can use our supply chain to secure a lot of those things that are costing us more through inflation,» he said.
HS2 trains are scheduled to carry the first passengers between Old Oak Common station in West London and Birmingham, between 2029 and 2033.
Euston station in London is currently scheduled to open later, by 2035. Further stretches to Crewe and then to Manchester are due by 2034 and 2041.
Most of the HS2 leg to Leeds was scrapped in 2021.