Government announces independent review into HS2 programme

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has published the terms of reference and timetable for an independent review into the High Speed 2 (HS2) project.

Douglas Oakervee, who has built up considerable knowledge on a wide range of major projects over the course of his 60 year career, will lead the review and will work with Lord Berkeley as his deputy.

They will be supported by a panel of experts, bringing together a range of perspectives from business, academia and the transport sector to ensure an independent, thorough and objective assessment of the project. Panellists will each be consulted on the report’s conclusions.

The terms of reference confirm that the independently-led government review will look at whether and how HS2 should proceed, using all existing evidence on the project to consider:

  • its benefits and impacts
  • affordability and efficiency
  • deliverability and scope
  • its phasing, including its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

A final report will be sent to the Secretary of State, with oversight from the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the autumn. The report will inform the government’s decisions on next steps for the project. Limited, largely preparatory works, on the project will continue in parallel with the report’s work.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits. That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2."

There has been significant criticism of the environmental impact of the HS2 project, with the Woodland Trust in particular campaigning hard for a rethink.

"The terms of reference for this review do not go far enough where the environment is concerned," said Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation & External Affairs at the trust. "While we are pleased to see the environment is being considered, simply looking at the possible benefits HS2 may bring in terms of carbon reduction will paint a very skewed picture.

"Any environmental benefits must be weighed against the environmental costs and what we stand to lose. This review cannot afford to neglect the massive negative impact HS2 will have on irreplaceable #AncientWoodland and the ousting of wildlife.

"We are all for green transport but as it stands HS2 cannot claim to be green in any shape or form because of the irretrievable damage it will cause.”

It points out that preparation work for HS2 is happening right now, and is destroying swathes of England’s AncientWoodland as the controversial route forces its way through our countryside.

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