`Loss-making´ HS2 to be delayed by a decade, warns Tory MP

HS2 will be delayed by a DECADE: ‘Loss making’ project will not be completed before 2041 – as budget swells to more than £106bn

  • Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen warns the £106billion HS2 high speed rail project will be a ‘loss-making’ endeavour and won’t be operating before 2014 
  • Told Parliament whistleblowers were warning of a 10 year delay on HS2 opening
  • Mr Bridgen also claimed HS2 project will cost upwards of £160bn to fully build  

The HS2 high-speed rail line is a ‘loss-making’ project, which will not be completed before 2041, a Conservative MP has told the Commons.

Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire Andrew Bridgen told Parliament that he had received information from a whistleblower within HS2 Ltd, which claims the first phase of the line, running between London and Birmingham, will not open until 2041, around 10 years later than planned.

He told MPs: ‘Experts in the field estimate that the energy requirements of HS2 trains will be five time that of conventional rail.’

He added: ‘Can we have an extended debate on the impact of HS2 on Government’s energy policy and the level of subsidy this loss-making project will have to be supported with annually if it is ever built?

‘Could we have this debate before 2041, which is the date that my whistleblower at the very top of HS2 tells me the project for phase one will actually be able to carry passengers between London and Birmingham?’

It comes as work suspensions, social distancing and reduced productivity over the past 12 months saw HS2’s costs soar by another £1.7bn – with the project’s estimated overall budget now swelling over £106billion. 

The HS2 high-speed rail line is a ‘loss-making’ project, which will not be completed before 2041, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen warned the House of Commons

A concept image of the proposed Old Oak Common Station, west London

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed Mr Bridgen’s claims, saying: ‘I thought whistleblowing was more steam engine than fast high-speed trains but never mind.

‘Obviously, the energy to run a train that is 440 yards long, that is two furlongs long, extraordinary length of train, at 225 miles an hour is more than running Ivor the Engine.

‘And that is of course something that has to be built into the overall energy plans of this country.

‘But the cost of energy to operate the HS2 network has been accounted for within the overall business case of the project and this energy will be procured in the open market at the right time to start operations and achieve value for money for the taxpayer.’

He insisted Mr Bridgen’s figures were wrong, adding: ‘The delivery and service of HS2 phase one remains 2029-2033, so I am interested in his whistle blower and I will of course pass the whistle on to the Secretary of State for Transport.’

Speaking at the Westminster Hall debate on Monday, the North West Leicestershire MP also claimed HS2 will cost £160 billion to build in full, £50 billion more than previous estimates.

It comes as work suspensions, social distancing and reduced productivity over the past 12 months saw HS2’s costs soar by another £1.7bn – with the project’s estimated overall budget now swelling over £106billion. Above: Machinery working on HS2 in Buckinghamshire

The Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, calls HS2 ‘a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage’.

But HS2 says only 0.29 square kilometres (0.11 square miles) of ancient woodland will be lost during the first phase. 

HS2 says it will reduce journey times between London and northern England and add capacity to Britain’s crowded rail network.

Critics question whether the high speed rail line is worth its ballooning price tag, especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people’s travel habits.

The first phase linking London and Birmingham is due to open between 2029 and 2033, according to HS2 Ltd. 

In September, Boris Johnson joined the front line to see work begin on HS2, as shovels hit the ground in Solihull. 

He said the ‘incredible’ scheme, launched in 2009, would deliver not just ‘22,000 jobs now, but tens of thousands more high-skilled jobs in the decades ahead’. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs last year the first trains may not be up and running until 2031.    

A spokesman for the Department of Transport (DfT) said: ‘We are making significant progress delivering HS2, a key part of our promise to build back better from Covid-19.

‘The project is already supporting more than 20,000 jobs, construction on Phase 1 has begun, and MPs have given their backing to the Phase 2a route.

‘We will continue to rigorously control pressures, and as our latest update to Parliament confirmed, Phase 1 remains within budget and schedule.

‘The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve.’

Phase 1 of HS2 was due to open in 2026, but in an update to Parliament in 2019, Transport Sinister Grant Shapps said the opening date would be pushed back to between 2028 and 2031.

In the HS2 six-monthly report to Parliament in March 2021, the DfT said the projected ‘delivery into service’ date range is between 2029 and 2033.

One contractor close to the project said that HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, ‘doesn’t really know how much Covid has added’. HS2 Ltd declined to comment when approached by MailOnline.

Construction started on Phase 1 of the London to Birmingham line in August last year after more than a decade of planning. But the ballooning costs could add to Treasury fears that HS2 will be a black hole for taxpayers.

The Department for Transport conceded to MailOnline that there had been ‘unavoidable costs’ arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

A DfT spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Our focus remains on controlling costs, to ensure this ambitious new railway delivers its wealth of benefits at value for money for the taxpayer.

‘The response to Covid-19 remains ongoing and final assessments of its effect have not been made.’

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