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In its report, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee identified three main areas of concern for the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail programme: priorities for rail investment; the process used to evaluate the project; and cost reduction considerations. The committee argued that improvements to rail infrastructure in the north of England should have been prioritised over HS2. The report also questioned the accuracy of the appraisal method used to support the project and gave some recommendations for reducing costs. Specific recommendations in these areas included: 

  • combining the Northern Powerhouse Rail Programme with the second phase of HS2;
  • undertaking a new analysis of the project; and
  • reviewing the potential cost saving if the maximum speed of the railway was reduced and if the line terminated at Old Oak Common station instead of Euston in London.

In response, the Government stated that the Northern Powerhouse Rail Programme is being developed closely alongside the second phase of HS2 already, but that it would consider the committee’s recommendation to join the two schemes. It also stated that the Department for Transport has confidence in the methodology used in its initial analysis. The Government did not accept the committee’s recommendation that analysis of potential cost saving by reducing the maximum speed at which trains could operate on the line should be published. It also did not accept the recommendation that services should terminate at Old Oak Common in London.

On 21 August 2019, the Government announced that an independent review into HS2 would be conducted by Douglas Oakervee, a former HS2 chairman. The review’s final report has not yet been published, though Lord Berkeley (Labour), deputy chair of the review, has published a dissenting report. The Government has already accepted that the costs of the project have increased. It intends to make a decision on the future of HS2 in due course.

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