An “independent and rigorous review” to determine the future of the £55bn HS2 project has been announced by the UK government.
The review will consider “whether and how to proceed” with the controversial project to connect London, the Midlands and North of England by high-speed rail.
Civil engineer Douglas Oakervee, who served as chairman of the Crossrail project from 2015-19, was selected by prime minister Boris Johnson to chair the review, with Lord Berkeley serving as deputy.
The review has been tasked with examining the benefits and impact of the project, as well as the affordability and efficiency of its delivery. It will examine whether the latest cost and schedule estimates are realistic and whether there are opportunities for cost efficiencies within the project.
The review must also assess the “direct cost of reprioritising, cancelling or de-scoping the project, including but not limited to: contractual penalties; the risk of legal action; sunk costs; remediation costs and supply chain impact”.
A final report on HS2 will be presented to the government in Autumn 2019, when construction work on the project was originally due to commence.
The first phase of the project was set to begin in December 2026, with trains travelling between London and Birmingham. The second phase of the project connecting cities in the North of England was expected to be operational by 2033.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The prime minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.
“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2. Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”
Last month, Johnson told Birmingham Live while he expected the project to cost over £100bn, he would be hesitant to scrap it.
However, he added: “I do think it’s only responsible as an incoming government, with all the controversy surrounding the spend on HS2, which will probably be north of £100 billion, it’s only responsible to have a short review without interrupting the timetable at Cuzo Street station or anywhere else.”