Ministers postpone road schemes to counter inflation impact on capital budgets
As ministers deal with the effects of inflation on capital budgets, the British government will not build the Birmingham-to-Crafte section of the HS2 railway line.
HS2, long plagued by delays and cost overruns, will be built in phases. The initial leg connecting London to Birmingham is already being constructed.
This controversial project was originally planned as a high-speed rail line connecting London to Manchester via Birmingham. However, it has been subject to delays, cost overruns, and reduced scope.
The cost of HS2 is now at PS100bn. This makes it a great candidate for savings. The first phase’s opening has been delayed from 2026 to 2029 to 2033. Much of the line to Leeds has been cut.
Transport secretary Mark Harper announced Thursday’s latest delays. He blamed “headwinds of inflation” from Russia’s invasion in Ukraine and “supply chain disruption” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He stated that “These headwinds made it difficult for us to deliver on our capital programs and we recognize that some schemes will take longer than anticipated.” We can focus our efforts to deliver the remaining capital programme.
Harper stated that construction work on the Birmingham-to-Crewe leg, also known as phase 2a was being delayed by two more years. It’s part of the second section linking Birmingham and Manchester. The completion of this section has been delayed from 2033 to 2035 to 2041.
He stated that the government would first prioritise the HS2 services starting from Birmingham, and a new station at Old Oak Common in west London. However, he insisted that ministers remain “committed” in taking the line to the terminus at Euston.
It was reported last month that the government was looking at further delays and reductions to the project under two initiatives called “Project Silverlight” or “Operation Blue Diamond”, to reduce spending over five years.
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh stated that the north of England would be responsible for the “shocking failure of the Conservatives”.
Chris Fletcher, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s policy director, acknowledged the government’s financial limitations, but added that the latest cuts raise more questions about ministers’ commitment to the flagship levelling-up program designed to balance regional economic inequalities.
We see the delay in essential construction and further development for HS2 as a step backwards. He said that significant parts of the scheme have been scrapped or significantly reduced. Further delays, dithering, and uncertainty undermine any claim this government might have about levelling up seriously.”
Gareth Dennis, a rail engineer and transport writer, said that the delay would cause serious damage to the whole scheme and the rail network. He stated that if the government had been truly committed to the project and its results, HS2 trains could have run into Manchester by the end this decade at costs much lower than the original budget.
Harper announced that Harper would delay some road projects, including the A27 at Arundel as well as the A5036 at Princess Way.
The construction of the Lower Thames Crossing will also be delayed by two years. This will be a tunnel under the Thames and will be the first new crossing of this river east of London in over 30 years.
After inflation reached its highest point in decades, the government is facing a tight budget and cuts to the largest infrastructure project. Some of the 40 new hospital are also being delayed. They are expected to be completed by 2030.