HS2 could cost up to £22bn more than its previous budget and may be delayed by seven years, the company building the high-speed railway has said.
The future of the long-running project was thrown into doubt last month after it was revealed that an independent review will consider whether and it should continue.
In a written statement to parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said HS2 chairman Allan Cook does not believe that the project can be delivered within the budget of £55.7bn.
Instead, it is estimated that the project needs a total budget “in the range of £72bn to £78bn”, Mr Shapps added.
The transport secretary also said Mr Cook does not believe phase one of HS2 can be delivered by 2026, and instead recommends a “staged opening” between 2028 to 2031.
Initial services would run between London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed by services to and from London Euston later, Mr Shapps said.
The minister added that Mr Cook expects Phase 2b of HS2 – the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds – to open between 2035 and 2040 – a delay of up to seven years from the previous date of 2033.
It comes after the Department for Transport announced a “rigorous” inquiry into the high-speed rail link, which will “inform the government’s decisions on next steps for the project”.
If completed, HS2 would connect London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow with up to 18 trains an hour at a top speed of 225mph.
But opponents say the scheme is too expensive and environmentally damaging.
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