Grant Shapps said starting construction of the entire HS2 rail project would "probably have been sensible"

Starting construction of the entire HS2 rail project from north to south would "probably have been sensible", according to the Transport Secretary.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 2:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 2:45 pm

But Grant Shapps ruled out "chopping and changing" the plan for the multibillion-pound high-speed line.

Construction work on phase one of the project from London to Birmingham is ongoing.

Phase 2a is planned to run from Birmingham to Crewe, and Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and from Birmingham to Leeds.

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Starting construction of the entire HS2 rail project from north to south would "probably have been sensible", according to the Transport Secretary.

The Government-commissioned Oakervee Review warned last year that the final bill for HS2 could reach £106 billion at 2019 prices.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Labour former minister Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) said: "Given that the National Infrastructure Bank is going to be based in Leeds, wouldn't it be highly symbolic to start building phase 2b of the eastern leg of HS2 from Leeds southwards?

"The Secretary of State was quoted recently as saying he's looking at bringing forward the start date.

"I wonder whether he would consider this idea?"

Mr Shapps replied: "I actually agree with (Mr Benn). It probably would have been sensible to start the entire project from the north-south in the first place.

"However, having looked at this in great detail - not least with the Oakervee Review - I also know chopping and changing those plans partway through is the most expensive possible outcome and doesn't work out.

"Nonetheless, we are committed to ensuring the integrated rail plan answers all these questions and his point has been very clearly heard."