As HS2 faces 'rigorous' scrutiny, should the £56bn high-speed rail project still go ahead?

Mired in controversy: The proposed design of the HS2. (PA)

The government is launching a review of the high-speed rail link HS2 which will analyse whether and how the project should continue.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the review will consider how the project, which will connect London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, should proceed.

It will take into account a number of factors relating to HS2, including its benefits, impacts, affordability, efficiency, phasing and most importantly, cost.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said that it will have a "go or no-go" decision by the end of the year.

Former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakerve, a retired engineer and ally of Boris Johnson will lead the inquiry.

Lord Berkeley - a railway expert and long-term critic of the high-speed railway scheme – will act as his deputy.

The Labour peer has challenged the Department for Transport’s cost figures for the HS2 and warned that the budgets were spiralling out of control.

Billions have already been spent on the project, which is designed to carry trains capable of travelling at 250mph.

According to an analysis of the state-funded organisation’s accounts, the project has cost taxpayers £4.1bn even before construction has started.

HS2 is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe. The government says it will cost £56bn, with the first phase from London to Birmingham coming in at £27bn.

The first phase is due to open in 2026, but many argue that it is over budget and behind schedule.

Britain's Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said they will decide whether they shoudl scrap the HS2 (AP)

Peers say the HS2 is too expensive, has not been well-managed, and focuses too much on London.

Its second phase to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33.

Mr Shapps refused to rule out scrapping it entirely.

Opposition to the project is continuing to increase, due to the poor economic case, the dire effects on the environment, and the multiple better ways of spending taxpayer’s money.

He said it was "responsible" to see whether the benefits really "stack up".


HS2 trains could run slower and less regularly

HS2 station designs for Birmingham and Solihull unveiled

This is what HS2 train carriages could look like

When asked about the money already spent on the project, Mr Shapps said: "Just because you've spent a lot of money on something does not mean you should plough more and more money into it."

He said ministers were asking the reviewers "just give us the facts".

"Go and find out all the information that's out there… genuinely what it would cost to complete this project, and then we'll be in a much better position to make that decision - go or no-go by the end of the year."

A final report will be sent to the government in the autumn.

Controversial: Campaigners against the construction of the proposed HS2, including two dressed up as otters, protest outside the Houses of Parliament (AP)

‘It will be vital to rebalancing the UK economy’

Charlie Cornish, Chairman of Manchester Airports Group:

“A hub station at Manchester Airport will be vital, helping us expand further our network of international routes, which connect people and businesses to destinations all over the world, attracting inward investment to the Northern and UK economy.

“It is imperative that both of these lines are delivered, connected by a hub station, to ensure the benefits of both lines are available to the widest section of the North’s population and business community.

“The HS2 line to Manchester will be an important milestone in the journey to creating better transport links, and vital to rebalancing the UK economy.”

Expensive: Interchange station in Solihull is one of the sites of HS2, artist's impression (PA)

Chris Hobson, Director of Policy at the East Midlands Chamber

“The Chamber will continue to champion HS2 as a hugely significant and much-needed infrastructure project which will have a positive and transformational effect on the East Midlands and the UK as a whole.

“The Chamber will continue to champion HS2 as a hugely significant and much-needed infrastructure project which will have a positive and transformational effect on the East Midlands and the UK as a whole.

“Of course the caveat to all this is cost. We absolutely need HS2 but we equally need to ensure value for money; there can be no blank cheque, especially given the magnitude of this project.

Modern: An artist’s impression of the planned Interchange station which will serve Solihull, the West Midlands, Birmingham Airport and the NEC (PA)

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

“It is a key piece of national infrastructure at a time when we need to be showing something positive to the world.”

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds city council

“This is the opportunity to transform the prospects for the north – perhaps a once in 200-year opportunity.”

‘It will only benefit the richest in society’

Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2

"HS2 is like jam tomorrow for the North, the idea that getting to London faster after 2033 will suddenly improve transport and economic benefits.

“What is needed is not extra routes to London, but regional transport locally that will enable local people to commute and for leisure.

“Faster trains to London will only benefit the richest in society, not ordinary people.”

David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West

Review: The government will come to a decision at the end of the year (HS2 Ltd)

‘It will upset so many people’

“I cannot understand why we will spend so much money and upset so many people in order to get to the end of the line 20 minutes sooner than would otherwise be the case.

“That is absolutely ridiculous and I hope that the Government will think again.”

Labour peer Lord Adonis, a former transport secretary

‘As stupid as you can get’

He tweeted that it would become "a massive bun fight, while the transport department runs for cover and HS2 Ltd is paralysed by indecision".

Due to its disruptive nature, local residents in the path of the railway are strongly opposed.

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