Northern leg is ‘not possible’ due to budget overruns says Labour leader

Keir Starmer has ruled out reversing the government’s cuts to the northern section of HS2. 

Supporters of the high-speed rail scheme had hoped it could yet be saved after reports that land linked to the project was unlikely to be sold before the next election, which is expected to take place later this year.  

Wendover Viaduct deck from above during the first deck slide looking south 10.01.24

Source: HS2

HS2 continues to build phase one of the project, with the first deck slide at Wendover Dean Viaduct taking place earlier this week

But the Labour leader said even if his party took power it was “not possible to do HS2” as the government had “blown the budget”.  

He told BBC North West Tonight that he “can’t stand here and commit to reversing” the cuts announced by Rishi Sunak at the Tory party conference last October. 

But Starmer re-iterated his commitment to plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail. 

“I want that designed and built in the North and therefore I’m talking to [Greater Manchester mayor] Andy Burnham and [Liverpool City Region mayor] Steve Rotheram about what are the needs of the people in the North West so that the plan can actually deliver what works for them,” he said. 

Labour has already promised to learn the lessons from HS2 budget overruns, recently appointed the former chief of Siemens to lead a review into infrastructure delivery. 

Despite the cancellation of large chunks of the line, work continues to complete phase one of the scheme. 

Earlier this week, engineers began the delicate process of sliding almost half a kilometre of bridge deck into position over the Misbourne Valley in Buckinghamshire. 

The 450m-long Wendover Dean Viaduct is the first major railway bridge in the UK to be built using a ‘double composite’ approach, which is well established in the construction of TGV infrastructure in France. 

Rather than using solid pre-stressed concrete beams to form spans between the viaduct piers, the Wendover Dean Viaduct uses two steel beams sandwiched between two layers of reinforced concrete. 

This approach uses less concrete and steel than a traditional design, allowing HS2 to halve the amount of embedded carbon.  

“Double composite structures maximise the combined strength of steel in tension and concrete in compression,” said Tomas Garcia, HS2 Ltd’s head of civil structures.  

“This approach has been tried and tested around the world and it’s great to see it applied on this scale for the first time in the UK at Wendover Dean.”

Close up of the weathering steel used on the Wendover Dean Viaduct 10.01.24

Source: HS2

The viaduct’s beams are made of ‘weathering steel’ which will fade to a dark brown colour over time, matching the surrounding countryside

Due to its length, it will be assembled in three stages, with each chunk pushed out from the north abutment before the next is attached behind. 

Over course of the year it will take to complete the process, the bridge deck will increase in weight from an initial 590 tonnes to roughly 3,700 tonnes. 

One of 50 major viaducts on the HS2 projects, Wendover Dean is being built by EKFB (Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial, Bam Nuttall). 

The joint venture is working with design partner ASC – a joint venture between Arcadis, Setec and COWI – and architect Moxon, while the manufacture and installation of the beams is being led by French specialists Eiffage Metal. 

This week also saw HS2 announce the appointment of a chief railway officer

Former technical services delivery director Emma Head has been promoted to the new role, which will oversee and integrate all elements of phase one. 

She joined HS2 as a member of the executive team in August 2015. She has previously been director of safety strategy at Network Rail and worked on the West Coast route modernisation and the Crossrail project.