A report from the public accounts committee says that the lack of progress at Euston Station could result in yet more costs, delays and uncertainty over the promised benefits of the project.
The current estimated cost of completing High Speed 2 is between £72bn and £98bn (2019 prices), compared to an original budget of £55.7bn in 2015 (2015 prices). Civil construction of Phase One is now planned to finish in 2025, with initial Phase One services (Old Oak Common to Birmingham Curzon Street) starting between 2029 and 2033.
Euston station is a key part of Phase One – it is meant to be the London terminus – but despite the necessary planning consents being in place since last year, according to HS2 Ltd, the Department for Transport is prevaricating. It has yet to make key decisions on the design and approach to construction there.
HS2 Ltd told the committee that it was “getting close to the point where the programme will literally run out of time” if this next decision is not made soon.
Government also still needs to decide how Phase 2b – the northern sections of the route – will integrate with other parts of the railway and transport system, the MPs said.
They said that the increases in costs have dented public confidence, while the volume of complaints about disruption and environmental damage from construction was rising and likely to increase further.
Dame Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the public accounts committee, said: “HS2 is already one of the single most-expensive taxpayer-funded programmes in the UK but there’s actually no clear end in sight in terms of the final cost, or even the final route. The project was plagued by a lack of planning and transparency from the start and there are many difficulties ahead.
“This project cannot simply keep sinking more taxpayer funds without greater clarity on the later phases. The development of Euston is a real challenge that must be resolved swiftly now.”
Deputy chair Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, a Tory, said: "For the first time, HS2 Ltd has given us estimated costs and delivery times for each section of Phase 1. However, whilst they have given us an estimate of £2.6bn cost for the redevelopment of Euston station, which may or may not be realistic, they have not given us a date by which Euston will be integrated into the rest of Phase 1 and indeed this phase will initially open at Old Oak Common [in west London]. If Euston does not come on stream fairly soon after this the major cost benefits of Phase 1 will be curtailed.
“The overall cost of Phase 1 is £35bn with a £10bn contingency, which would appear to be achievable. However, plans are not yet complete as to how Phase 1 will be integrated into Phase 2, and the costs of Phase 2a and 2b are far less certain. Therefore, the total wide estimate of building the entire railway is far less certain, between £72bn to £98bn, and could well exceed even that."