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HS2 given green light by government

11 February 2020

Following an independent review by ICE Past President Douglas Oakervee, the government has announced approval for High Speed Two to go ahead.

HS2 given green light by government

High Speed Two has been given the 'green light' by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Following a review into the high speed railway project, the government today announced approval for the line to go ahead.

In a statement to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister announced that HS2 has been given the go-ahead to make progress on the stretch of track between London and Birmingham, as well as the spur between Birmingham and Crewe referred to as ‘Phase 2a’. He also announced that new delivery arrangements would be made for the other parts of the project, including HS2’s London terminus at Euston.

The final part of the project, the extension of the line from Crewe to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds, will undergo a further review by the Government to understand how this part of HS2 can be better aligned with other projects as part of an integrated plan for rail in the North.

In response to the Prime Minister’s statement, Nick Baveystock, Director General of the Institution of Civil Engineers said:

"On balance, today’s decision is the right one. The challenges that HS2 seeks to solve are significant. With the UK’s population set to reach 75 million in the coming decades, we must have a rail network that can meet the demands of commuters, now and in the future, by addressing overcrowding, resilience and reliability. "

"The Government has also rightly recognised that HS2 should be properly integrated into the wider rail network - a holistic approach to infrastructure planning always delivers better outcomes. Focus should now be redirected to the future planning and delivery of HS2 - ensuring that its benefits, not just its costs, remain at the forefront of people’s minds."

How did we get here?

Proposals for HS2 were first announced in 2009 by the then Labour Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis. Since then, HS2 has continued to receive the backing of successive Governments. However, 10 years on, one of Boris Johnson’s first acts as Prime Minister was to announce a review of the project on 21 August lead by former ICE President Doug Oakervee. The outcome of this was published today – it had been delayed by the General Election in late 2019.

Last month, the National Audit Office highlighted a number of concerns about the management of HS2 which it believes are responsible for both the delays and the increases in the estimated costs of the project.

Last year, ICE published a report that examined the difficulties in forecasting the cost of infrastructure projects, such as HS2, and set out recommendations to avoid similar overruns and cost increases in future. These include awarding contracts based on a cost estimate range, using a should-cost estimate as a reference point, plus a call for the guidance in the Government’s Outsourcing Playbook to be made mandatory for the built environment sector.

More details on the Government’s announcements, including a Minister for HS2 and the future governance of the project, are expected in the coming days and weeks.

Read our blog on the HS2 decision.

  • Vanessa Furey, head of external affairs at Institution of Civil Engineers