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HS2 could be scrapped, says Truss

Words: Laura Edgar
HS2 train concept art / HS2

Rail projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and other infrastructure projects could be prioritised over HS2 under a future Conservative government, Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury has suggested.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, Truss said the Treasury was having a serious look “for the first time” at whether HS2 – for which only the first phase between London and Birmingham has been approved – could be delivered within its £56 billion budget.

She explained that HS2 is included in a “zero-based capital review”, which is examining major infrastructure projects in advance of the government’s spending review. This is due later this year.

The findings of this review will be presented the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest once he or she takes over from Theresa May as prime minister.

May and transport secretary Chris Grayling have said they are committed to delivering phase 1, and phase 2 to Manchester and Leeds.

Truss made it clear that whether planned infrastructure projects, including HS2, go ahead will be a decision for the next prime minister. She sees her role in the Treasury as “making sure we have the maximum amount of information prior to these decisions being made later this year”.

Truss’s comments come after a report by the Economic Affairs Committee recommended that the Northern section of HS2 be combined with Northern Powerhouse Rail, and be treated as one project.

An investigation by The Planner analysed the spiralling costs of HS2. The National Audit Office said the estimated cost for HS2 to buy land for phase 1 had tripled in six years to more than £3 billion and warned that this could rise further.

Figures obtained by activists against HS2, using Freedom of Information requests in February, confirm this trend. Around £2.05 billion has been spent on land and property on the first leg, compared with the £1.1 billion originally budgeted. The requests reveal that 745 properties have been bought up until February 2019, but 819 offices, shops, farms and houses had still to be purchased.

Read more:

News report: The spiralling costs of HS2

HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail should be combined, say Lords

Image credit | HS2