The Government has announced it “disagrees” with an HS2 Ltd estimate showing a “significant” increase in the cost of building the high-speed railway.

HS2 Ltd, the Government-owned company responsible for the project, calculated in September that constructing the line between London and the West Midlands known as Phase One would cost between £49 billion and £57 billion (at 2019 prices).

This comes a year after Transport Secretary Mark Harper said this phase “remains within its overall budget of £44.6 billion”.

HS2 Ltd blamed several factors for the increase, such as delivery productivity, delays obtaining consent for the work, and the impact on supply chains from the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

In a report to Parliament on Wednesday, rail minister Huw Merriman wrote that the latest estimate is “a very significant upwards revision compared with HS2 Ltd’s previous projections”.

He stated that “the Government disagrees with the £49 billion to £57 billion figure for two reasons.”

He explained that the estimate was drawn up before the Department for Transport (DfT) curtailed HS2 last month by scrapping the project north of the West Midlands and dramatically amending plans for Euston, which will cut costs.

The minister also stated that the DfT “makes different assumptions on how much cost risk remains addressable”.

The department’s officials put the estimated cost range for Phase One at between £45 billion and £54 billion.

Mr Merriman wrote that he has asked HS2 Ltd executive chair Sir Jon Thompson to update the company’s estimate considering the revised scope of Phase One, and to explain why the increases “have been so significant”.

A spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: “This is a project of unprecedented scale and complexity.

“Rising costs were caused by multiple factors including delays in planning and environmental consents, programme scope changes, and supply chain pressures linked to the pandemic and Ukraine war.

“With hindsight, estimations made prior to full construction by the Government and HS2 Ltd were overly optimistic and delivery performance did not fully match expectations.

“HS2 Ltd, under the new leadership of Sir Jon Thompson, is committed to learning lessons of the last few years and controlling costs.”

A DfT spokeswoman said: “We’re focussed on delivering HS2 between London and Birmingham, and are moving forward to build a station at Euston that’s affordable and can open to the public as quickly as possible.”

Mr Harper was asked by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee on Wednesday about allegations that HS2 Ltd previously withheld accurate cost figures from the DfT.

The Cabinet minister said: “There are some allegations that are live, which are being looked at by HS2’s investigative function.

“Obviously because there’s a live investigation, it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on those specifically, except to say if it is found that things have gone on that require a response from the Government, then there will absolutely be one and we will take whatever steps that we need to.”


“HS2 Ltd calculated in September that building the line between London and the West Midlands would cost between £49 billion and £57 billion.”

£44.6bn…£47bn…£57bn… Come on! What’s a few billion between friends? Lolz😆 🤣

The cost of HS2 has become a joke. From a project estimated at inception of £50bn for all 3 phases to now start talking of all that budget for just one phase!? Pls give me a break. There’s got to be a better way. We saw Crossrail before it descend into similar financial and delivery incoherence until the steady hands of Canadian Mark Ward was brought in to steady the ship but by which time, it was about just getting it done.

We can’t keep delivering big projects in this manner. It’s as if we are not learning any lessons.

The following is an extract from DfT’s report to Parliament,

“DfT makes different assumptions on how much cost risk remains addressable, including different assessments of: how future risks could be actively mitigated: how revised incentives could change the trajectory on the costs of completing the civils and systems work and the size and composition of HS2 Ltd’s own operating costs. As set out in the Network North command paper, for the historic Phase 1 scope DfT officials have, therefore, estimated a provisional range of £45 billion to £54 billion on the basis of the same data used by HS2 Ltd, but using different assumptions on how much remaining cost risk remains addressable.”

What does all that gobbledegook mean?! It’s like running rings a roses. We need to get serious with big projects. We can’t go on like this, but it’s not only us. Carlifornia high speed has moved from $10bn at conception to an anticipated $128bn for a much reduced scope. Gulf railway line connecting Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar and others has moved from $14bn estimate some 15yrs ago to $250bn today. Stuttgart 21 in Germany has ballooned from $3bn to $10bn.

The question for me is, who is making all that money because the public certainly are not benefitting?