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A timeline of HS2 delays as mayors try to revive line's northern leg

As Manchester and the West Midlands mayors try to revive the scrapped northern HS2 route, here's a timeline of the controversial high-speed rail project.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Construction continues at the site of the Birmingham High Speed Rail 2 station at Curzon Street on January 11, 2024 in Birmingham, England. After Prime Minister Rishi Sunak scrapped plans to extend HS2 beyond Birmingham in October 2023, the Department for Transport (DfT) released a Network North document, emphasising that Phase 1's cost should range between £45 billion and £54 billion. This has allegedly been complicated by construction inflation over the past three years. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Construction at the site of the Birmingham High-Speed Rail 2 station at Curzon Street. (Getty Images)

Talks are to be held this coming week in a bid to revive the HS2 northern rail link between Birmingham and Manchester, which was scrapped by Rishi Sunak in October amid spiralling costs.

West Midlands Conservative mayor Andy Street and Manchester's Labour mayor Andy Burnham are expected to meet transport secretary Mark Harper in a bid to get Phase 2 of the rail project back off the ground. The pair are hoping for a replacement scheme funded by private companies, including rail firms.

Street told the Sunday Express: "The mayors of the two regions are leading this but to be clear, with government support. By inviting the private sector in to play the maximum possible role, it can be significantly less costly for the public exchequer."

The HS2 has been marred by delays, with the high-speed rail project fist given the green-light in 2012. Phase 1 – linking London and Birmingham – is expected to be completed around 2030, at an estimated cost of £66.7bn.

Here, Yahoo News provides a timeline of the controversial project to show how we got to this point.

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2009

The Labour government establishes HS2 Ltd in January to examine the case for a new high-speed rail line. Former prime minister Gordon Brown announces a plan for a north-south high-speed rail project in December, promising to invest £20bn in railway infrastructure.

2010

A consultation on a route for HS2 from London to Birmingham with a Y-shaped section to Manchester and Leeds is published by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in December.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street walks outside the BBC Broadcasting House ahead of the 'Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg' programme, in London, Britain, November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Isabel Infantes
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street wants a new Birmingham to Manchester line to be funded by the private sector. (Reuters)

2012

Transport secretary Justine Greening announces the government has decided to go ahead with the project, despite concerns over its cost and the environmental impact of construction. Already by this point the project's cost has risen to £32.7bn.

2013

In June, the government says the cost of the project had risen to around £53bn. This is partly due to costs associated with a new route, including a tunnel through the Chilterns.

2014

The Supreme Court rejects outstanding appeals by opponents of the rail scheme in January.

2015

The budget is raised once again to £55.7bn in November.

2016

The National Audit Office warns in June that HS2 is under financial strain and could be delayed by a year. Simon Kirby resigns as HS2 Ltd chief executive in September.

Wendover, UK. 15th November, 2023. HS2 works in Wendover, Buckinghamshire to divert a road. Although Rishi Sunak has cancelled the Northern Leg of the HS2 High Speed Rail, Phase 1 construction of HS2 is still continuing in the Chilterns which is an area of Natural Outstanding Beauty. Many residents in the Chilterns are furious about HS2 and the detrimental impact that it is having on the countryside and all without benefit to Buckinghamshire as the train won't stop there. Credit: Maureen McLean/Alamy Live News
HS2 works in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in November 2023. (Alamy Live News)

2017

HS2 Ltd accepts it was a "serious error" to make £1.76m of unauthorised redundancy payments to staff. That same month, the government confirms 16 newly-built homes on the Shimmer housing estate in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, would be bulldozed to make way for the railway line.

2018

Sir Terry Morgan resigns as chairman of HS2 Ltd amid criticism over his role as chairman of Crossrail, which is delayed and over budget.

2019

The Conservatives commission a review in August into whether and how HS2 should continue, led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee. The following month, a report by HS2 chairman Allan Cook says the railway may not be completed until 2040 and could cost £88bn.

Read more: HS2 'has turned our rural village into a hellish building site'

Denham, UK. 29th December 2019. Stand for the Trees, a Walk for Wildlife and Water, organised by Chris Packham and supported by Extinction Rebellion, #ReThinkHS2, Save the Colne Valley, STOP HS2 and Hillingdon Green Party. Speakers described the threats to the habitats that are the homes of endangered eels, bats, otters, water voles, the loss of 28,000 trees to HS2 and the chalk aquifer that contributes to much of London’s water. Credit: Stephen Bell/Alamy
Environmental protesters, including Extinction Rebellion, in Denham, Buckinghamshire, rally against the threat posed by HS2 to animal habitats and 28,000 trees in December 2019. (Alamy)

2020

The Oakervee review is widely leaked in January, revealing that HS2 could cost up to £106bn. The report still concludes that "on balance" the project should continue. Then-prime minister Boris Johnson gives HS2 the go-ahead in February, re-setting the so-called funding envelope.

Phase 1 is set at £44.6bn (at 2019 prices), while the estimated cost for the full network is revised to a range of £72bn to £98bn. HS2 gives formal approval for companies to begin construction of Phase 1 in April.

In May, a report by the all-party public accounts committee (PAC) accuses the Department for Transport of not being upfront about delays and costs. It says the project has gone "badly off course" and questioned why HS2 Ltd's chief executive, Mark Thurston, was paid a £46,000 bonus on top of his £605,350 salary.

Construction formally begins on the Birmingham leg of the project in September, with Johnson marking the milestone at an event in Solihull, West Midlands.

2021

Environmentalists dig a network of tunnels in London's Euston Square Gardens in January, prompting a complex operation by authorities to remove them.

In March, the government says anti-HS2 protests and the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the project facing additional "cost pressures" of £800m. In June, the Tories' shock by-election defeat to the Liberal Democrats in the Buckinghamshire constituency of Chesham and Amersham is partly attributed to concerns over HS2.

By October, the government says HS2's cost pressures have risen to "around £1.3bn", partly due to delays completing preparatory work, approving designs and securing planning consents. The following month, transport secretary Grant Shapps scraps the eastern link from Birmingham to Leeds, with the route being "safeguarded" in case a future government decides to fund it.

Watch: HS2 contractors say they won't stop digging to Euston despite setbacks from government

2022

Shapps points to a "landmark moment" as the bill for Phase 2, extending the project to Manchester, is laid in Parliament in January.

In May, construction of the Colne Valley Viaduct begins. It will be the UK's longest railway bridge, stretching for 2.1 miles above a series of lakes and waterways just outside north-west London. In October, levelling up secretary Michael Gove suggests capital investment for HS2 would be reviewed, but chancellor Jeremy Hunt subsequently backs the project.

2023

In March, the government says construction for the Birmingham to Crewe leg is to be delayed by two years. Meanwhile, work at Euston is paused as costs have risen to £4.8bn, well over the budget of £2.6bn. It means that until at least the 2040s, the route will stop at Old Oak Common, six miles away from the central London station.

In June, the government says services between Birmingham Curzon Street and Old Oak Common are expected to begin from 2029 to 2033, with the Manchester leg up and running between 2035 and 2041.

Read more: HS2 'intimidated landowners over compensation claims after contact with MP'

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham joins Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for a visit to Warwick University in Coventry. Picture date: Friday January 19, 2024. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has joined forces with Andy Street to revive Phase 2 of the project. (Getty Images)

The following month, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) watchdog rates HS2 as "unachievable" and says the whole plan may need to be "reassessed", but the government remains committed to the project.

In October, Rishi Sunak confirms he is scrapping the northern Birmingham to Manchester route. He says "every single penny" saved would go towards transport projects in the North and Midlands, citing £36bn in investment.

2024

In January, planning protections safeguarding land on the abandoned Birmingham to Crewe route ends, the Department for Transport confirms. Meanwhile, Andy Burnham and Andy Street attempt to bring the Birmingham to Manchester route back from the dead.