Preparatory work has started in London but no actual track has been laid; despite this the cost of the project has risen from £56bn to potentially close to £90bn, and the first phase from London to Birmingham looks set to be open around 2030 rather than the originally planned 2026.
The recently appointed Chairman of HS2 Ltd, Allan Cook, provided a report to the transport secretary on HS2's progress.
Mr Shapps told parliament in a written staement: 'Adjusting by construction cost inflation, the range set out in Allan Cook’s report is equivalent to £81 to £88bn in 2019 prices, against a budget equivalent to £62.4bn.
'He recommends 2028 to 2031 for Phase One - with a staged opening, starting with initial services between London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed by services to and from London Euston later. He expects Phase 2b, the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds, to open between 2035 and 2040.
'He has also suggested that Phase 2a, West Midlands to Crewe, could be delivered to the same timetable as Phase 1, subject to Parliamentary approval. Finally, he is of the view that the benefits of the current scheme are substantially undervalued. HS2 Ltd continues to refine its estimates of cost, benefits and schedule. All these will be considered within the scope of the Oakervee review.'
The news follows the launch of a review by prime minister Boris Johnson, which promises a ‘go or no go’ decision by the end of the year on whether to proceed with the troubled project.
The review is led by Douglas Oakervee, a former chairman of HS2 with Labour peer and HS2 critic Lord Berkeley as deputy chairman.
A range of options will be considered including canceling the scheme, reducing planned speeds, descoping or cutting Northern Powerhouse Rail - a planned east to west high speed line across the North.
HS2 could be descoped by building it from London to Birmingham only, or taking out phase 2b - connecting the East Midlands via Toton.
Political leaders from the North were up in arms at the prospect, and have launched the Connecting Britain pressure group to campaign for the completion of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said ‘a green light on Hs2 and northern powerhouse Raul in full would be a clear signal from the government that it recognized that historic underinvestment in strategic transport infrastructure outside London is a trend that must be reversed.’
Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said: 'Successive Conservative transport ministers have shown themselves to be utterly incompetent and unable to oversee the finances and governance of HS2, among other infrastructure projects.
'This Government has misled both Parliament and the public about the cost of HS2. People need to have confidence in the project, so this delay is bad news for the UK transport system as a whole and the north of England in particular.
'Labour will bring our railways into public ownership so they are run in the interests of passengers, not for private profit, to deliver significantly improved services and affordable fares.'