The cost of HS2 could be as much as £106 billion, according to a leaked document to the Financial Times.
Commissioned in summer 2019, the Oakervee Review is examining whether or not the HS2 project should proceed, with all benefits considered.
Towards the end of last year, a leaked draft of the report said the infrastructure project should go ahead, despite costs spiralling from £56 billion to almost £90 billion.
However, the unpublished report, leaked to the Financial Times, reveals the costs could be even greater, raising further doubts about the viability of the project.
The report warns of a “considerable risk” that the cost of the project could rise by a further 20%, compared to the estimate towards the end of last year; the amount HS2 is expected to generate for the economy was downgraded in autumn – from £2.30 for every £1 spent to something in the region of £1.30 to £1.50.
That will now fall further, and the information seen by the Financial Times also suggests that work on the second phase, which will link the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds, should be delayed for half a year while it is explored whether or not that particular route could comprise of a mixture of standard and high speed rail.
These suggestions are unlikely to be met with approval from business leaders in the North, who already feel that the area has been left behind in comparison to transport options down south.
There is a very real concern that scrapping the scheme would devastate the employment market and infrastructure plans in the future.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said that scrapping the second phase of HS2, but going ahead with the first phase would be ‘unacceptable’.
He told the BBC: “To me that would be the same old story. London to Birmingham, money is no object, and then all the penny pinching is done in the north of England.
“That would not be acceptable to me, and I’m sure wouldn’t be acceptable to many other leaders across the north.”