Drone footage shows HS2 has left deep scars across the countryside

A landscape scarred forever: Drone footage of HS2 construction work tearing across England’s countryside reveals just how much work is left to be done with northern section of high speed rail line ‘set to be scrapped in days’

Drone footage taken from points on Britain’s faltering High Speed Rail 2 project has revealed the enormous scars ripped into the countryside across the route with as ministers due to make a decision on the northern leg this week.

If all had gone to plan, Britain would be just two and a half years away from high-speed trains whizzing between London and Birmingham, cutting travel times by around 30 minutes.

Construction workers should now be putting the finishing touches to the network but instead, completion has been pushed from 2026 to 2029-33 and the budget has risen from £37.5billion to £98billion. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly so spooked by an £8billion jump in costs to complete the line to Birmingham that he is set to axe the Manchester leg which has been labelled a ‘gross act of vandalism’ and an ‘act of economic self-harm’ by former chancellor George Osborne. 

In an article for the Times newspaper with Tory grandee Lord Heseltine, the former Chancellor warned the Prime Minister about damaging Britain’s reputation and protecting his own legacy.

Infrastucture at Denham which will feature a ten mile tunnel has been described as a ‘mess’

The north tunnel portal (top of image) takes shape at the Chiltern Hills near Great Missenden which has been raised by the building work

Line construction at Huddlesford in Staffordshire which is considered a ‘mission critical’ spot

He wrote: ‘Governments are remembered for what they build and create. Make this mistake, and yours may only be known for what it cancelled and curtailed.’

READ MORE: George Osborne rails against scrapping HS2 northern leg: Ex-Tory chancellor brands axing Birmingham to Manchester link ‘an act of economic self-harm’ – as ministers prepare to make decision within days

Citing Boris Johnson’s winning message in the 2019 election, they added: ‘How could ever again claim to be levelling up when you cancel the biggest levelling-up project in the country?’

Last week, the Mail sent a drone along the entire length of HS2. Photographs show many major points are still construction sites in their early stages.

Phil Marsh, who has worked in railway administration for 50 years, said: ‘These pictures show what a massive infrastructure project HS2 is and how dreadful it looks at the moment. There are earthworks, concrete mixers and haul roads on a vast magnitude, which creates a huge environmental and societal impact on our densely compacted country.’

Costs have spiralled, Mr Marsh said, due to the number of changes made. ‘Every time specifications are slightly altered, insiders tell me that contractors are basically sticking another million pounds in their back pockets.

‘If all this is for 30 minutes off the journey from London to Birmingham, it would be a complete waste of money.’

About one mile east of Lichfield and 15 miles north of Birmingham Curzon Street Station, HS2 veers northward.

HS2 cuts through the countryside between Long Itchington Wood and South Cubbington Wood in Warwickshire

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are expected to decide in the coming days whether to axe the second phase of the high-speed line. A graphic of the line and each phase is pictured

Construction work is being carried out beneath the West Coast Main Line and amid Staffordshire farmland.

‘This is what is considered a ‘mission critical’ spot as any disruption to the West Coast Main Line might have cost millions,’ said Phil Marsh.

‘It looks fine, but the tracks still need to be laid.’

The Chiltern Tunnel ends to the west of Chesham and north of High Wycombe.

This is where the high-speed trains are due to travel above ground for a short distance before plunging into the 0.9-mile Wendover Tunnel.

‘This end of the tunnel through the Chilterns hasn’t been cut through yet so it’s just a wall of earth,’ said Christian Wolmar, who hosts the railway podcast Calling All Stations.

‘The twin tunnel-boring machines, Florence and Cecilia, still have about two miles to go.’

This one-mile tunnel travels beneath an ancient woodland and was completed in November last year – but at the cost of felling four ancient woods in nearby South Cubbington.

Work is still being carried out to handle 500,000 tons of mudstone at an on-site slurry treatment plant.

‘The hard work has been done with the major construction complete,’ said rail administrator Phil Marsh. ‘But there are the railway communications, drainage and signalling systems still to do.’

Covering ten miles, this will be the longest of the 500 tunnels dug for the HS2 line.

The underpass begins in the south near the M25 and then head north-west between the towns of Beaconsfield and Amersham. Railway podcast host Christian Wolmar said: ‘The tunnel is only about three-quarters finished.

‘Denham is a mess – an enormous building site with a car park for 1,000 cars and a concrete factory works for mixing concrete and making tunnel supports.’

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