A timeline of HS2 delays as '£232m paid in compensation from scrapped leg'

As new figures highlight the amount paid in compensation from the scrapped northern HS2 route, here's a timeline of the controversial high-speed rail project.

HS2 construction site signs as work continues near the HS2 mainline station at Curzon Street on 24th June 2024 in Birmingham (Getty)
HS2 construction site signs as work continues near the HS2 mainline station at Curzon Street on 24th June 2024 in Birmingham (Getty)

Plans for new train services between London and Manchester have been unveiled following the cancellation of HS2’s northern leg – as a new report claimed more than £230m has been paid out in compensation relating to the scrapped section.

A freedom of information request by Sky News has claimed that £232m has been paid out to people affected by the now-axed northern leg of HS2, with nearly £550m spent in total on a range of compensation packages for people and businesses along the planned London to Manchester leg. In October last year, prime minister Rishi Sunak cancelled the plan to extend HS2 between the West Midlands and Manchester amid spiralling costs.

Operator London Northwestern Railway is now seeking permission to extend its existing services – which run between the capital and Crewe – to Manchester Victoria via the West Midlands.

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.

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.

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
Former West Midlands Mayor Andy Street wanted a new Birmingham to Manchester line to be funded by the private sector. (Reuters)

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.

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.

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

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

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)

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.

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

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)

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.

Watch: ‘The forgotten North’: Public react to HS2 fund reallocation

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.

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

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.

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, prime minister 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.

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.

In July, plans for new train services between London and Manchester are unveiled following the cancellation of HS2’s northern leg. Operator London Northwestern Railway is seeking permission to extend its existing services – which run between the capital and Crewe – to Manchester Victoria via the West Midlands. It is seeking to use the same track space on the West Coast Main Line that Virgin Trains and Lumo have announced open access bids for.