Watchdog rates parts of UK’s €52 billion HS2 rail project ‘unachievable’

The UK’s High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line, a project aimed at creating high-speed rail links between London and central and northern England, has been dealt a major blow as it received an “unachievable” rating for its first two phases from an industry watchdog.

Artists impression of an HS2 train at a platform Artists impression of an HS2 train at a platform

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the government’s centre of expertise for infrastructure and major projects, issued a “red” warning for the London to Birmingham and Birmingham to Crewe sections of the ambitious rail venture.

The IPA’s annual report on major projects, published on 20th July, which reported on the progress of 244 projects, raised concerns about the HS2’s viability.

The “red” rating indicates that successful delivery of the project appears to be unfeasible, and there are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and benefits delivery, which do not currently do not seem manageable or resolvable, according to the IPA.

HS2’s future on the line

The report further suggests that the entire project may require re-scoping and its overall viability reassessed.

Liebherr LR1250E electric crane at HS2's Old Oak Common construction site A crane at work at HS2’s Old Oak Common construction site. (Photo: HS2)

Despite these critical assessments, the UK government remains committed to delivering HS2, one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the country’s history.

The London to Birmingham leg of the rail link, which was initially scheduled to open in 2026, is now expected to be operational between 2029 and 2033.

The phase of the project running from Crewe to Manchester received an “amber” grading from the IPA, suggesting that while successful delivery appears feasible, significant issues already exist and need attention.

Cost-cutting measures

In an effort to cut costs, the government made the controversial decision to scrap the eastern leg of the line, which was originally intended to run between London and Leeds. Instead, a shorter high-speed line will now link Birmingham and the East Midlands.

Interior design for the new HS2 terminus at Euston Station An impression of the proposed Euston Station on the HS2 line (Image: HS2 Ltd)

A spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Transport said, “Spades are already in the ground on HS2, with 350 construction sites, over £20 billion [€23.3 billion] invested to date and supporting over 28,500 jobs.

“We remain committed to delivering HS2 in the most cost-effective way for taxpayers.

“HS2 will bring transformational benefits for generations to come, improving connections and helping grow the economy.”

An HS2 spokesperson added that construction on the line is currently reaching a “peak,” with significant civil engineering structures taking shape along Phase One of the route.

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