HS2 Phase 2 'not possible', Starmer claims


Labour will not re-instate plans to take HS2 beyond Birmingham if it comes to power, Keir Starmer has said, as the fallout from the decision to truncate the line continues.

The Labour leader told the BBC that he ‘can't stand here and commit to reversing’ prime minister Rishi Sunak’s last October.

He said on Friday that it was ‘not possible to do HS2’ as the government had ‘blown the budget’, adding: ‘Contracts are going to be cancelled.’

On Wednesday, Sir Jonathan Thompson, executive chair of HS2 Ltd, told MPs that the current cost of phase 1 of the high speed line, which is continuing, could reach £65bn.

He told the Transport Select Committee that the project is estimated to cost between £49bn and £56.5bn at 2019 prices, but that updating costs to current prices would add another £8bn-£10bn.

‘So we are looking in the region of £60 billion to £65 billion for phase 1, as we sit today,’ he said.

He added: 'It is the Government’s long-standing policy that infrastructure estimates are updated only at spending review points. That is why we are still working to 2019 prices.

‘The whole conversation about 2019 is, to be frank, an administrative burden of some significance in the organisation. All the invoices we get, we then have to deflate backwards to 2019 prices, even though we are paying them at 2024 prices, and then we have to adjust the accounts to account for that.’

Sir Jon also said HS2 trains running through Birmingham to Manchester on existing track would have to run slower than tilting Pendolino trains and that because they had fewer seats, 'capacity would go down'.

He also appeared to criticise the process by which ministers had made the decision to curtail the line.

He told MPs: ‘In the first three or four weeks after the announcement on 2 October, it became fairly clear that the level of detail that civil servants had developed in advising ministers on that policy which we, of course, were not party to, to be really clear lacked some specificity,’

On Thursday, City AM reported that the Government’s Network North document, setting out transport schemes across the country to be funded by HS2 cash, was ‘rushed together in Number 10 by a bunch of [special advisers]’ and not written by the Department for Transport.

The paper’s source said the ‘poorly drafted’ document had ‘too many errors in it, and should be reviewed and republished’. Responding to the report shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh MP said: ‘It will come as no surprise to anyone that this shambolic plan was cobbled together by people with no knowledge of transport in a conference hotel room. This is sticking plaster politics at its very worst.

‘The Conservatives’ back-of-a-fag-packet plan promised extensions to roads that didn’t exist, tram lines that had already been built and reannouncements of projects they promised a decade ago.’

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