Government will not rush construction of High Speed 2 (HS2) and the case for starting work from the North earlier was not as clear cut as some people believe, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs this week.
McLoughlin said he was still awaiting a report from new HS2 Ltd chief executive David Higgins on the possibilities for building the £42.6bn scheme more efficiently and quicker than its scheduled 2032 completion date. He was speaking to the House of Commons Transport Committee, on Tuesday.
Last October, before formally taking on the role in January, Higgins told the committee that he would look at speeding up the second hybrid bill covering the section between Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
This could enable more of the work north of Birmingham to run concurrently with construction of the first phase from London to Birmingham, which is due for completion in 2026.
But McLoughlin warned against focusing too much on speeding up delivery, because environmental assessments are incomplete and will take time.
“I know there is a lot of pressure, from a number of people, to say can we can build the line from the north to the south,” McLoughlin said.
“The one problem is that I’ve not yet confirmed the route for Birmingham to Manchester or Birmingham to Leeds. That was out to consultation [until 31 January].
“Once the route is confirmed we have to do the environmental statements. That is no short programme.
“I don’t think it’s quite as easy as some people have alluded to,” he said, adding that such a strategy also fails to acknowledge that the main capacity issue is into the London terminal at Euston.
McLoughlin said he was expecting to receive Higgins’ review next month.