The MPs said that costs estimates for phase 2 – extending the network north of Birmingham to Crewe (2a), and to Manchester and Leeds (2b) – urgently need to be firmed up.
They describe the timetable for High Speed 2 as ‘overly ambitious’. The Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd are now looking at delaying the planned opening date for the London-Birmingham first phase by up to 12 months from December 2026 to December 2027.
The PAC report, Progress with preparations for High Speed 2, says: “The cost estimates for phase 2 are still volatile and currently exceed available funding by £7bn. We remain to be convinced that proposed savings of £9bn can be made without adversely affecting the benefits of the programme.”
It also says that "a great deal of work is still required" to integrate plans for HS2 with other rail investment proposals and the existing network.
Committee chair Meg Hillier MP said: “The government has promised significant benefits to taxpayers in return for their investment in HS2, expected to run to more than £55bn. Despite this, parliament and the public are still in the dark about crucial details – not least when the railway will open, how much it is expected to cost and precisely where it will go.”
She said: “The announcement at the weekend that HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby is leaving the company adds to the uncertainty enveloping a project on which strong and stable leadership is vital.
“Lack of clarity over plans for HS2 in South Yorkshire highlights what is at stake for communities and local economies, and why government must explain its intentions and the basis for its decisions in a transparent manner. The public must be confident the grand vision for HS2 does not blind the government to the finer points which have implications for many people’s lives now and in the decades to come.
“Similarly, local authorities must know central government’s intentions to ensure they can plan effectively for regeneration and maximise the potential for growth near HS2 stations. The government is due to announce its decision on the 2b route this autumn and we urge it to seize this opportunity to address the concerns set out in our report."