HS2 will run into London’s Euston station as planned, the chancellor insisted on Friday following reports the final section of the route could be axed because of soaring costs.
Jeremy Hunt said he did not see “any conceivable circumstances” in which the high-speed rail project would not run into the terminus.
Rishi Sunak also insisted that the Government is “committed to delivering all the plans that it’s announced with rail”.
A report in The Sun suggested the redeveloped Euston might not open until 2038 and could be axed completely, with trains instead terminating at Old Oak Common in west London – a former rail depot being transformed into an interchange station on the flagship line.
The newspaper also reported that a two to five-year delay to the entire project is being considered.
Asked on Friday if ministers were committed to HS2 going “all the way to Euston,” Mr Hunt replied: “Yes we are.”
“And I don’t see any conceivable circumstances in which that would not end up at Euston,” he continued. “I prioritised HS2 in the autumn statement.”
Complexities around the Euston site mean high-speed services will temporarily start from Old Oak Common – which will connect with the Elizabeth Line – until the redevelopment of the central teminus is complete. The delayed opening will add at least half an hour onto journeys to and from Euston.
Mr Hunt admitted Britain did not have “a good record” of delivering complex, expensive infrastructure quickly, but he is “incredibly proud” that HS2 is being built under a Conservative government.
He added: “We’re going to make it happen.”
A “full business case” for HS2 published by the DfT in April 2020 stated that the target timeframe for services launching between Old Oak Common and Birmingham was 2029-2033, whereas for trains between Euston and north-west England the range was 2031-2036.
The document also stated: “Euston is an important part of realising the benefits of HS2 and that work should continue on the section from Old Oak Common to Euston.
“Notwithstanding this, Euston is a very challenging, complex major programme and given its current status, Old Oak Common will be expected to operate as a temporary terminus for a period of time.”
Phase One of HS2 involves the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe in Phase 2a.
Phase 2b will connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands. The planned extension to Leeds was shelved in November 2021.
Construction of a 4.5-mile long tunnel between Old Oak Common and Euston was expected to begin in 2024 and take two years to complete.
Lord Berkeley, deputy chairman of a review into HS2 commissioned by then-prime minister Boris Johnson in August 2019, said Old Oak Common could only have capacity for around half the trains of Euston and that shrinking the scope of the project would make it unworthwhile.
He said: “There’s not enough space for it (to be the London terminal) so they couldn’t do it except maybe (for) a shuttle service from Birmingham.
He claimed investment in the project would be “much better spent on improving the railway lines in the north, east and west, than going to London a bit quicker”.
Phase One of HS” involves the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe in Phase 2a.
Phase 2b will connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands.
A planned extension to Leeds was shelved in November 2021.