HS2: It could be shortened, scrapped or slowed down

Tom Edwards
Transport correspondent, London
@BBCTomEdwardson Twitter

image copyrightSiemens/PA Media
image captionHS2's total cost has also risen from £62bn to up to £88bn

Rumours and uncertainty are swirling around the HS2 project as an independent review looks at its future.

The project could end up costing £88bn and potentially even more, making it one of the most expensive transport projects ever.

We've been told shortening the route to end at Old Oak Common in north-west London rather than tunnelling into central London, is being "seriously considered" by the Department for Transport (DfT).

image captionCraig Douglas said work around Euston had "completely desecrated this area"

It's the first time Craig Douglas has been back to the site where his lovely old pub The Bree Louise used to stand next to London Euston station.

It used to serve up real ales and was always full. But it was flattened to make way for HS2 and is now a building site.

I asked him what it's like seeing it like that. He said it is soul-destroying.

"It has completely desecrated this area, it used to be a community, hotels, bars - it was a local community," he said.

The former landlord thinks HS2 will "probably" be scrapped or shortened but "it doesn't matter now".

He has yet to get full compensation. HS2 Ltd says it is trying to sort that out.

image captionDemolition work around Euston has been going on for a number of years

The independent review wants to know if there could be savings and will make recommendations to the government.

It wants to ascertain if it should be scrapped. Or whether it could it end at Old Oak Common in the suburbs instead of going into London Euston. Or if it could it run at slower speeds.

It would seem unthinkable for the review to not recommend some changes.

Supporters say HS2 is needed to free up capacity on the rail network, creating space for more local rail services.

It would also create jobs and homes at places like Old Oak Common and Euston as part of huge redevelopments.

And a lot of work has already been done for HS2. The project has spent £1.2bn on property in London, out of a total spend of £7bn so far.

The areas around Euston and Old Oak Common have seen years of demolition work and disruption. The plans are based on HS2 being there.

Changes to the plan would mean going back to the drawing board, creating more delays.

image captionResident Amanda Souter is concerned the review will cause further delays to work in Old Oak Common

At Old Oak Common, one of the residents Amanda Souter says: "I think it's politically motivated that they're probably going to do a review as they don't want to lose votes up in the Tory heartland of the Chilterns.

"I just think they're too overinvested in it and they'll try and cut corners and save money but I think the worse thing for us is if there is another delay, which would mean living several more years in a wasteland," she said.

Transport for London (TfL) believes ending the line at Old Oak Common would also put huge pressure on the planned Crossrail service.

"Our analysis shows terminating all HS2 services at Old Oak Common would have very serious and unacceptable implications for the Elizabeth Line, with capacity being exceeded during the morning peak, as well as implications for other interchanging stations within central London," it said.

London's mayor also said shortening the route would mean short-changing Londoners and the country and the full completion of the scheme was key to regenerating areas like Old Oak Common and Euston.

image captionA protest camp has been set up has been set up where the line is due to travel through Harefield

Further out at Harefield in the green belt, we talk to protesters who are camped next to the planned line.

They say they are protecting wildlife and the nature reserves and want HS2 to be scrapped. They have high hopes the review will do just that, even though £7bn has already been spent.

Sarah Green has been at the camp for two years. She said HS2 was "having a terrible impact on the green belt and the green lungs of London".

"Already 3,000 trees have been taken down," she said.

"People need an area like this within the M25. If it's destroyed we'll never get it back."

Whatever the independent review recommends, the final decision will of course be with the government.

A DfT spokesperson said: "The new secretary of state has established an independent review into HS2 which will provide the department with clear advice on how and whether the project should proceed.

"We are not going to pre-empt or prejudice this work with a running commentary on the review's progress."

You can see the film on HS2 on Inside Out London which is available on iPlayer.

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