UK’s HS2 rail costs rise again by up to £10 billion

London: Britain’s HS2 high-speed rail project linking London with Birmingham in central England could cost the government up to £10 billion (S$16.9 billion) more than expected, the project’s chairman said.

HS2 Chairman Jon Thompson said the cost estimate for the first phase of the line was £49 billion to £57 billion at 2019 prices, but measuring in current prices would push it up by £8 billion to £10 billion.

He said the cost increase was due to inflation and because the initial budget was set too low.

The infrastructure project, the first new intercity railway to be built north of London in over a century, has already been scaled back due to ballooning costs, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelling the northern leg to Manchester last October.

“If you brought our estimate for 2019 prices up to 2023–24 prices, you’d be adding somewhere between £8 billion and £10 billion further to that,” Thompson told a committee of lawmakers on Wednesday (Jan 10).

In November, the government said HS2’s £49 billion to £57 billion estimate was too high and asked Thompson to review it to account for the cancellation of the northern leg of the project.

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But while Thompson acknowledged “some poor delivery on our part” for the higher cost estimate on Wednesday, he said the budget was too low to begin with.

“The cost of delivery is more than the government budgeted, and that is before you begin to account for the extraordinary construction inflation over the last three years or so,” he said.