MPs’ report says HS2 needs ‘realistic timetable’

Parliament and the public “are still in the dark” on key details about the £55bn HS2 project, MPs have warned.

The Public Accounts Committee has criticised the scheme for not having a “realistic timetable”, arguing getting the first phase from London to Birmingham to open in 2026 as planned is “overly ambitious”.

It also urged the government to clarify the route and costs for the second phase, linking to Manchester and Leeds.

The MPs’ report comes just days after HS2’s current boss Simon Kirby announced he was leaving to take up a top role at Rolls-Royce.

But this morning the city of Birmingham gave the controversial project a boost by annoucing it has found £1bn to fund HS2-related regeneration projects.

The Department for Transport said the project was “on time and on budget”, adding: “We are keeping a tough grip on costs, and pressing ahead with plans for phase two - with further details due to be announced this autumn.”

The MPs’ report acknowledged there had been “considerable progress” on HS2 since its first report on the project in 2013. But the committee’s chair said both parliament and the public were “still in the dark about crucial details - not least when the railway will open, how much it is expected to cost and precisely where it will go”.

The report said the cost estimates for the second phase were “volatile”, and £7bn higher than the agreed £28.5bn funding. It noted that £9bn of potential savings had been identified, but said it was unclear whether these could be made without “adversely affecting the expected benefits of the programme”.