Prime minister’s ‘mind made up’ on Euston and northern phase 

The future of HS2 is in doubt whatever the result of the next election after Labour followed the government in refusing the commit to its full delivery. 

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, shadow cabinet minister Pat McFadden said the party would need to see the scheme’s revised costs before making a final decision on whether to build it. 

Plans to complete HS2 “in full” had previously been included in a manifesto blueprint developed by the party’s National Policy Forum but it remains to be seen whether it will be Labour policy heading into next year’s election. 


Source: Number 10/flickr

Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are reportedly working out how to cut more bits of HS2 to save money

“We want to see the railway being built, it looks as though the government is now putting a question mark over this, there may be revised costs to that,” said McFadden. 

The prime minister and chancellor Jeremy Hunt are understood to have met last week to discuss options for the high-speed rail project, with the stretch of line between Manchester and Birmingham reportedly on the chopping block. 

Over the weekend, The Times newspaper quoted a “senior government source” who claimed Sunak had “made up his mind” to scrap both the northern section and the connection into central London at Euston. 

This would mean HS2 services would terminate in west London and passengers would have to take the Elizabeth Line to get into the centre of the capital. 

These two parts of the scheme have already been subject to re-phasing earlier this year, with the start of work on the northern element pushed back and work on the Euston site mothballed unti April 2025. 

Mark Reynolds, chief executive of Mace, which was working on Euston in joint venture, has previously described the government’s approach to Euston as “absolutely shameful”, accusing it of “sneakily” announcing cuts just weeks after reassuring construction firms it would go ahead. 

“You cannot leave Euston as it is to scar central London,” Reynolds said. “It has to go into central London as a railway. The system doesn’t work without it going into Euston.” 

Arcadis’ boss Alan Brookes told Building in June that the decision to ice the Euston job was “baffling”.  

“I would not start something like that, go as far as you’ve gone and say ‘we’ll leave it at Old Oak Common’,” he said. 

“You’ve got to have real access into London. With these big projects, once you’ve made a decision you have to stick with it. We do seem to have this stop-start attitude in this country.” 

>> MPs say mothballing HS2 Euston won’t save money and accuse government of ‘not knowing what it wants’ for station 

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Hunt confirmed he was looking at how to bring costs down. 

“With any big infrastructure project, let alone the biggest infrastructure project in the country, you would expect us to have conversations about managing cost overruns,” he said, adding that would not “be drawn on the details”. 

The HS2 scheme was budgeted at £33bn a decade ago but has ballooned to between £70bn and £100bn – though that figure is at 2019 prices meaning the final bill is likely to be higher still. 

“I want to see what happens in the coming months, we want to see the railway being built but we’ve also – like everything else – got to look at the cost of everything we do,” said Labour’s McFadden. 

“I want to see what this costs and we’ll make those decisions when it comes to the manifesto.”