The Government plans to put a 12-month parliamentary delay on HS2 legislation in the latest in a succession of blows to the £56bn project, according to reports.
The Times has revealed that the legislation needed to pave the way for the second section of HS2 past Birmingham and on to northern England is to be put on hold for a year.
The bill will now be tabled in 2020 and the news follows a string of allegations of cost overruns.
The Department for Transport told the Times it would not delay the overall timetable of the project although this has been disputed. It added the hybrid bill was being paused to take account of 'northern powerhouse rail', the east-west network linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.
Chair of the transport committee, Lilian Greenwood, said: 'If true, this is a poor start to the new parliamentary year for the Transport Secretary. It’s yet another potential delay to a large and complex transport infrastructure project and raises further doubts over the Government’s commitment and willingness to invest in the Midlands and the North.
'Ultimately, this project was meant to be the ‘great economic conduit’ for the North and part of the plans to rebalance economic growth in this country. Without HS2 Phase 2b, the potential transformation to connectivity across the Midlands and to the great cities of the North and Scotland will be lost. The line is scheduled to open in 2033 and rail passengers, local authorities, MPs and businesses will require reassurance that the timetable will not slip.
'Serious cost concerns are raised - Ministers must be upfront with us about where the finances of this project stand and provide reassurances that they won’t derail the full scope of this project.
'The Government needs to be more transparent about why this decision has been made. It’s a poor show that MPs and the public are finding out through a third-party. The Secretary of State needs to come to Parliament to explain the situation to MPs as soon as possible.”