According to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the government has committed to constructing High Speed 2 through to London Euston rather than closing it short at Old Oak Common. He told the BBC: “I don’t see any conceivable circumstance in which that would not end up at Euston.”
Hunt’s comments on January 27 pursued the assumption in The Sun that the Old Oak Common – Euston section could be postponed or scrapped. A rail industry group declared that this would indicate ’there would only be enough capacity to allow London – Birmingham shuttle services’.
The Department for Transport said to Rail Business UK that: “the government remains committed to delivering High Speed 2 to Manchester, as confirmed in the Autumn Statement”. DfT expressed: “as well as supporting tens of thousands of jobs, the project will connect regions across the UK, improve capacity on our railways and provide a greener option of travel.”
However, DfT argued that like the rest of the economy, HS2 Ltd. was facing considerable inflationary pressures.
Hunt articulated that the country does not have a good record of delivering complex and expensive infrastructure quickly. Despite this, he had prioritized HS2 in the Autumn Statement and was ‘incredibly proud’ that “we have shovels in the ground, we are building HS2, and we’re going to make it happen.”
The High-Speed Rail Group pointed out: “cancelling Euston would be the height of folly”, remarking that “works have been underway there for five years and already hundreds of millions have been spent”.
The group claimed that Old Oak Common “has nowhere near enough platforms to serve as the London terminus”, and “there would only be enough capacity to allow London – Birmingham shuttle services” on HS2.
“In very simple terms, if Old Oak Common is the terminus, you cannot have HS2 services reaching Manchester. If you cut off Euston, you also cut off Manchester and the rest of the north.”
Postponing Euston’s opening “may save some money in the very short term”, but enabling more construction inflation to creep in would add to the overall cost and “be a completely false economy.”
CEO of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, Stephen Marcos Jones, argued that last-minute changes would “do nothing but add complication, delay and expense”.
He noted: “our national infrastructure should not become a political football. We need to ensure that major projects can proceed confidently if they are – ultimately – to be successful.”