HS2: Cost of phase 2a decommission still unclear

HS2 is still unclear about the costs of decommission its enabling works on the route’s cancelled phase 2a, six months after the government pulled the project.

The rail body will decommission all of the enabling works it did north of Birmingham, after prime minister Rishi Sunak cancelled the leg in October.

But, half a year on, it is no closer to knowing how much it will cost to decommission those works.

In a response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent by Construction News, HS2 said it “has not resolved the cost of decommissioning enabling works across phase 2a”.

CN understands that the Department for Transport (DfT) will fund the decommission works from cash already earmarked for HS2.

At the time of its cancellation, construction industry representatives blasted Sunak’s decision to scrap phase 2a, with the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) describing it as a “dark day for the entire UK economy”.

The government had already spent £1.25bn on phase 2a before it was scrapped, and the decision has prompted concerns beyond the construction industry.

In December, the leaders of Cheshire East Council warned it had spent £11.2m preparing for phase 2a, and that the need to pay back £8.6m of borrowing could force it to declare bankruptcy.

The council previously wrote to rail minister Huw Merriman and housing secretary Michael Gove, calling for compensation to cover the £11.2m loss.

Ahead of this year’s general election, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer ruled out reviving the second phase of the project. He blamed the government for “blow[ing] the budget”, adding that the contracts were being cancelled and the land could well be sold in the coming months.

Kier and Balfour Beatty both worked on the early works on phase 2a, with the former scooping an early works contract worth £50m back in July 2021.

Balfour Beatty landed a £52m contract to deliver early environmental works on the project, weeks after the phase got the green light in February 2021.

Last month, Merriman said in a parliamentary answer that work “continues to develop the closedown, remediation, and demobilisation plan for [HS2’s] phase 2”.

CN approached the DfT for comment. A spokesperson for the department referred CN to the parliamentary answer. HS2 declined to comment.

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