The Department for Transport (the Department) and HS2 Ltd have made considerable progress with preparations for High Speed 2 since the previous Committee last reported on the project in 2013. They have issued tender documents for major civil engineering contracts on phase 1 and plan to announce the preferred route for phase 2b later in 2016. However, we are concerned that the Department’s timetable for High Speed 2 is overly ambitious, which is exemplified by the fact that the Department and HS2 Ltd are now looking at delaying the planned opening date for phase 1 by up to 12 months from December 2026 to December 2027. The cost estimates for phase 2 are still volatile and currently exceed available funding by £7 billion. We remain to be convinced that proposed savings of £9 billion can be made without adversely affecting the benefits of the programme. HS2 Ltd’s recent recommendation to the Department that the planned High Speed 2 station in South Yorkshire be moved from Meadowhall to Sheffield Midland station is one example of the significant uncertainty that remains about plans for phase 2. We welcome the Department’s commitment to set out how the UK railways will operate as a single, integrated network, but a great deal of work is still required to integrate plans for High Speed 2 with other rail investment proposals, and with the existing network. Furthermore, greater assurance about sources of funding and finance for regeneration and growth is required to ensure that the promised regional benefits from High Speed 2 materialise.
12 September 2016