DfT has not denied reports that the Old Oak Common to Euston branch could be scrapped or delayed to save money

The government’s flagship HS2 rail project could well be scaled back so that it no longer goes into central London, according to reports this morning.

The Sun newspaper said the high-speed rail line may now terminate at the HS2 hub at Old Oak Common in west London instead of being connected through to Euston via a new tunnel. Alternatively, the Euston leg could be delayed until at least 2038.

Firms working on the Euston scheme include Mace, which is set to build a new train station at the site in joint venture with Dragados, and Costain, Skanska and Strabag which are boring the tunnels into and out of Euston.


A CGI of the exterior of the planned HS2 Euston station, designed by Grimshaw

The Department for Transport (DfT) has not denied the reports, merely confirming that it is committed to delivering HS2 “to Manchester”. It is expected to make a further statement later today.

The reports come as ministers and transport officials review the spiralling cost of the £60bn project as rampant inflation puts a strain on construction budgets.

Bernadette Kelly, permanent secretary at the DfT, signalled that cuts were likely to MPs earlier this week.

Speaking to a select committee, Kelly said: “It is likely that there will be some quite tough decisions that need to be taken then, including around the phasing and delivery of all our capital programmes, including HS2.”

Huw Merriman, rail and HS2 minister, also said there would be cuts to the wider rail network enhancements pipeline, adding that there were “far too many projects in it for the funding envelope”.

The Sun reports that emergency talks have been held with the directors of HS2 Ltd on how to keep the project on budget.

MPs were warned last year that the total cost of going all the way to ­Manchester will hit £100bn - even before inflation began to soar.

>> See also: Clouds gather over HS2: What would cutting Britain’s biggest infrastructure project mean for the industry?

The government has also come under pressure to cut the scheme from figures close to the influential Policy Exchange think-tank.

In a report in November, Andrew Gilligan, a former advisor to Boris Johnson, urged the chancellor to take an axe to HS2 in order to mitigate spending cuts elsewhere.

Greg Smith, the Conservative MP for Buckingham and a member of the transport select committee, said in The Sun: “This enormous white elephant must be put out of its misery. Think of what we could do with the savings.

“It never did make financial sense. If there really was demand for it, why is the private sector not ­falling over themselves to invest rather than the taxpayer shouldering the bill?”

This morning the DfT said: “The government remains committed to delivering HS2 to Manchester, as confirmed in the autumn statement.

“As well as supporting tens of thousands of jobs, the project will connect regions across the UK, improve capacity on our railways and provide a greener option of travel.”