HS2 costs estimated to soar to £66bn

The true cost of HS2’s line from London to Birmingham is expected to grow to as much as £66bn, says the scheme’s executive chair.

On Wednesday, the transport select committee heard from Sir Jonathan Thompson who said the line could add “between 8bn and £10bn” to the current estimate of £56.6bn.

He told MPs: “The cost of delivery is more than the government budgeted, and that is before you begin to account for the extraordinary construction inflation over the last three years or so.

“If you brought the estimate for 2019 prices up to 2023-24 prices, you’d be adding somewhere between £8bn and £10bn further [to the cost]. Construction inflation over the last three years has been 27% … steel has risen by 47%, rebar 53%, concrete 48%, and so on”.

Whilst Rishi Sunak promised an increase in services to the North when he cut the HS2 line between Birmingham and Manchester, Thompson believes the HS2 trains will move more slowly between the two cities, because they are unable to tilt on bends.

Trains will also have to be shorter to fit existing platforms, resulting in fewer seats.

He criticised the government’s process of updating infrastructure project prices during spending reviews, resulting in HS2 phase 1 costs remaining at a 2019 level.

Thompson said: “[It] is, to be frank with you, an administrative burden of some significance in the organisation because all of the invoices we get we have to then deflate backwards to 2019 prices even though we’re paying him at 2024 prices.

“Then we have to adjust the accounts to account for that, so it is a significant administrative faff.”