Broader rail network enhancements pipeline could also see cuts, rail minister says.

Rapid inflation in the price of construction materials is putting a strain on Department for Transport capital spending and could necessitate “quite tough decisions” on the phasing and delivery of projects, including HS2, a senior civil servant has warned.

The department’s permanent secretary, Bernadette Kelly, told the House of Commons transport select committee that ministers would be taking decisions “over the next few weeks” on how pressures across the capital portfolio are to be managed.

HS2 minister, Huw Merriman, walks on top of the high speed railway’s first and longest viaduct

Rail and HS2 minister, Huw Merriman, recently visited the Colne Valley Viaduct site

A six-monthly report on the high-speed rail project published last October revealed it was unlikely to meet its £40.3bn target cost, having already drawn down £1.5bn of its delegated contingency.

Kelly told the committee that the £1.9bn of net additional pressures on the first phase, predicted in the autumn, is now expected to crystallize.

She added that ministers were yet to receive a full response to their request for a cost mediation plan from HS2.

“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,” she said.

The new rail and HS2 minister Huw Merriman also gave evidence to the committee, which he had chaired until his ministerial appointment last November.

He indicated that the broader rail network enhancements pipeline would also likely see cuts, telling MPS that there were “far too many projects in it for the funding envelope”.

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“There will be projects that colleagues may have been told would be going ahead but which actually have not been proceeded with and will not go ahead,” he said.

“My job is going to have to be to give the bad news.”

Merriman also assured the committee that it would soon have answers regarding the government’s plans to connect parts of the country which have previously fallen victim to HS2 cuts.

A promised study on connecting Leeds would be published “shortly”, he said, though he wavered on a previously stated commitment to put forward an alternative to the Goldborne link – a proposed 13-mile line that would connect HS2 services with Scotland – by the end of March.

“I will do everything I can because there is a big impact on the HS2 project going all the way towards Scotland in terms of alternatives to the Golborne Link. I am a little concerned about saying that I am definitely going to hit that deadline,” he said.