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What next for HS2?

Is it too soon to yet describe the once much-vaunted HS2 scheme as 'embattled'?

Once held up (at least by some) as being a great project that was going to fix capacity issues in the South and increase connectivity between London, the North and Scotland, the future for this project seems bleak to say the least.

Whilst there seems little doubt the stretch between London and Birmingham will be built (with construction well on the way) - albeit whether the line finishes in Old Oak Common or Euston remains uncertain - the future of the line north of Birmingham was cast into fresh doubt recently, with a number of leading Conservative politicians not willing to be drawn into the debate amid talks of potential cancellation (or at least delay) of the Birmingham to Manchester leg, in a similar vein to the effective cancellation of the Birmingham to Leeds leg in November 2021.

This was brought into sharper focus last week (and over the weekend) with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt MP and former transport secretary, Grant Shapps MP making it clear that the project was under review given the ever increasing cost of the scheme.

It is possible we may get a decision this week in advance of the Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester but, if it is indeed cancelled north of Birmingham, it must be accepted that, quite apart from national and international embarrassment, the impact on those whose homes and businesses have been threatened (and in many cases the property interests now acquired) for cancelled parts of the scheme is as unconscionable as it is distressing to those impacted most significantly.

Whatever the decision made about HS2's future and what, if any, impact this might have on the associated Northern Powerhouse Rail project, it must call into question how such projects are planned and delivered in the future, and what can be done to better mitigate the impacts on those people and businesses most directly affected by scheme proposals.

"The reputational damage to a country or a government that commits itself and encourages others to invest and commit themselves to a project which was claimed to be transformational and then to stop - the reputational damage is incalculable,"

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