TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has welcomed the announcement that the HS2 project is going under review, saying the rail scheme would not benefit the region.

The Government announced yesterday that the £55billion scheme to link London and Birmingham with a high speed rail network would be put under an independent review to analyse whether and how the project should continue.

Former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee will lead the inquiry, with Lord Berkeley - a long-term critic of the scheme - acting as his deputy.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the review will consider a number of factors relating to HS2, including its benefits, impacts, affordability, efficiency, deliverability, scope and phasing.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen welcomed the news and says he will contribute to the review.

He said: “The Government should be focusing more of its transport and infrastructure money in the North of England.

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Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor

“I welcome this review by the Prime Minister because HS2, at the moment, does not benefit the North-East at all.

“I will be taking part in this review to make sure the Tees Valley and the wider North of England has a voice.

“Instead, the Government should be investing in Northern Powerhouse Rail and other transport schemes across the North, which will have a bigger and more positive impact on the Tees Valley and our quality of life than a new line between London and Birmingham.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said they would also be calling for cities north of Leeds to benefit from high speed rail.

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He said: “HS2 is a vital project to help rebalance the economy and make us more productive, alongside linked interventions including most notably Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“The Northern Powerhouse Partnership will be engaging positively with the review to make the case for why HS2 is so necessary, for cities like Leeds and Manchester, but also for those like Newcastle, Preston and Glasgow, which all benefit from significantly better connections under an integrated plan for a new railway to take city to city traffic off our largely Victorian network which we need for commuters and freight.”

The launch of the review comes amid growing concern that HS2 cannot be built to its current specification within the £55.7 billion budget.

A recent Financial Times report stated that HS2 Ltd chairman Allan Cook wrote to the DfT warning the final bill could reach as much as £85 billion.

The feared price hike is believed to be due to various factors including engineering costs, poor ground conditions, underestimating the cost to purchase land and property, and the expense of running trains at up to 225mph, which is faster than comparable projects.

Middlesbrough Labour MP, and Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Andy McDonald said his party wants the review.

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Andy Mc Donald Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

He said: “Labour supports investing in developing new rail capacity, including high speed and digital rail, to address the climate crisis and better connect our towns and cities.

“But improved governance of railway expansion is needed, not least over the HS2 project.

“We attempted to amend the HS2 bill recently to require an independent peer review, which the government rejected.

“Labour supports an independent peer review to consider the project’s environmental and economic impact and its governance.”

The Dft says the review will “inform the Government’s decisions on next steps for the project” and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.

“Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”

A final report will be sent to Mr Shapps - with oversight from Boris Johnson and Chancellor Sajid Javid - by the autumn.