HS2 has not cost £100 billion to date

3 April 2024
What was claimed

HS2 has cost £100 billion.

Our verdict

This isn’t correct. As of 2023, £27 billion had been spent. The current estimate for the total cost is around £66 billion.

What was claimed

HS2 has cost £600 million per mile of track.

Our verdict

This is not what has been spent. Spending has reached around £27 billion and the current estimate of £66 billion for the total cost of HS2 means it may cost approximately £471 million per mile of track.

A post being shared on social media claims that HS2 has cost £100 billion with each mile of track costing £600 million. But this isn’t true.

The claim, which is circulating on Facebook and has over 1,500 shares on X (formerly Twitter), says: “£100bn was spent on HS2, not even a quarter was built, it didn't even pay for the train stations, only 140 miles of track.

“That is over £600m a mile, or £300,000 a meter. Who has stolen all the money?”

But this claim isn’t correct, and the amount currently spent on the project is around a quarter of what has been stated. 

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What is HS2?

High Speed 2 (HS2) was initially drawn up in 2009 under the Gordon Brown Labour government as a major infrastructure project to build a high speed railway between London and the north of England.

Construction was planned to be split into several phases, with phase 1 covering the stretch between London to the West Midlands, and phases 2a—covering the West Midlands to Crewe—and 2b west and east covering Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds and York.

But then-transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed in 2021 that the eastern leg linking Leeds and the East Midlands would not be going ahead as part of the HS2 project.

And in October 2023 at the Conservative Party Conference Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the HS2 route north of Birmingham was to be scrapped, significantly reducing the overall price tag. 

How much has been spent on High Speed 2?

Back in 2009 the government estimated the entire project would cost £37.5 billion. But since then, the estimate has risen substantially. In 2021 it was estimated that the cost of completing the entire length of HS2 to Manchester would be between £72 and £98 billion in 2019 prices.

As of November 2023, a total of £27 billion (in 2019 prices) has been spent on the project, with construction underway at 350 sites between London and the West Midlands Work begun to date includes two thirds of the planned viaducts to carry HS2 and half of the required bridges, as well as a third of tunnelling which has already been completed.

Construction of the first leg of HS2 began in September 2020. Construction also includes new stations to accommodate the new high speed trains, which are not expected to run until at least 2029.

A project to build an HS2 station at Euston in London has been paused since March 2023 due to the need to find a more ‘affordable design’, with the government seeking private investment into the scheme.

The total cost of the 140 mile line between London and Birmingham could be as much as £66.5 billion (in 2023/24 prices), MPs were told in January.

This means that the cost would be more than £475 million per mile—but not £600 million per mile as the post incorrectly claims (as £100 billion divided by 140 is around £714 million).

According to the Institute for Government, costs have risen due to a number of factors, including changes to the scope of HS2, ground conditions requiring more structural work, inflation and ‘optimism bias’ about how quickly and cheaply it could be built.

Image courtesy of Bob Walters

Correction 9 May 2024

This fact check was corrected to clarify that the eastern leg of HS2 linking Leeds and the East Midlands, not Leeds to Manchester, was cancelled in 2021.

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