Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted that the final link from Birmingham to Leeds is likely to be abandoned as part of the Department for Transport’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).
Comments from the Prime Minister about expected changes have led to accusations of betrayal and misplaced priorities around the controversial project, which ministers say will be transformative for the country but which critics have accused of being too expensive and destructive.
Here is everything you need to know.
What is HS2?
HS2 is a planned high-speed rail link between London, the Midlands and the north of England.
The route, which could eventually connect eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities, would also join with existing routes into the north-east and Scotland.
Those behind the scheme say it will connect more than 30 million Britons via fast public transport, allowing “rebalancing” of the country’s economy beyond London and creating 22,000 jobs during the construction phase.
Under plans which have been in development for a decade, 18 trains an hour will run along the route at up to 224mph, making it the fastest service in Europe.
According to the scheme, the route would cut travel time between London and Birmingham by 37 minutes, completing the journey from Euston to the new Birmingham Curzon Street station in 45 minutes, and take almost an hour off journey times between London and Manchester.
Six new stations will be built along with 330 miles of new track laid in three phases.
What is the HS2 route?
The proposed route is being developed in three phases.
Construction on phase 1 began in 2020 and will link London with the West Midlands.
The 140-mile route will run from an extended London Euston station to the new Curzon Street Station in Birmingham and also see the creation of Interchange Station in Solihull and Old Oak Common Station.
Phase 2a of HS2 will extend the route from Fradley in the West Midlands to Crewe in Cheshire. From there, services will join the existing rail network to create direct services to places including Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow.
Phase 2b will then take the high-speed line from Crewe north to Manchester Airport and Manchester Picadilly. Initially it was also intended to add a second spur from Birmingham to Leeds via a new East Midlands Hub but this has now been abandoned in an effort to cut costs on the massive project.
How much will HS2 cost?
One of the biggest controversies around HS2 is the final cost of the project.
When it was first mooted in 2010, estimates put the cost of the whole route at upwards of £20 billion. In 2015 when costs were set out in the Budget, the bill was put at just under £56bn.
However, in 2020 the Oakervee Review warned that the final bill could reach £106bn at 2019 prices.
When will HS2 be completed?
Phase 1 of HS2 was originally due to be completed by the end of 2026, however the latest estimates from those behind the construction is that trains will begin running on the route between London and Birmingham some time between 2029 and 2033.
Work on phase 2a is set to run in parallel with construction of phase 1 and trains should also begin to run along the route as far north as Crewe by 2033.
However, no start date for phase 2b has been given and, in the wake of Mr Shapps’s comments, there is no indication when, or if, the northernmost sections of the route could be completed.