London: There is “overwhelming evidence” that the costs of High Speed 2 are “out of control” and its benefits overstated, the deputy chair of its review panel said.
Lord Berkeley said the high-speed rail line, linking London and northern England, is likely to cost more than £108 billion.
A vocal critic of HS2, the Labour peer said he believed MPs had been “misled” about the price – set at £55bn in 2015.
He has published a “dissenting report” on the project, but the government said it represented his personal view.
And a coalition of northern political leaders and businesses has also rejected Lord Berkeley’s criticism of the project.
“We need HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered together, in full,” said the leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese, part of the Connecting Britain campaign.
Trains are due to start running on HS2 between London and Birmingham in 2029.
However, Lord Berkeley says there is little prospect of that before 2031, and warns high-speed trains will not reach Manchester and Leeds until 2040.
He told the BBC that spending money on improving rail services in the north of England was far more important. “That’s where the really bad quality railways are,” Lord Berkeley said, adding that a complete upgrade “could probably be done at half the cost of HS2”.
Lord Berkeley was the deputy chairman of the independent Oakervee Review in to HS2, set up by the government.
However, he has withdrawn his backing from the review, which is expected to be published in the coming months.
He says he disagrees with a draft version of its official report and as a result has published his own version.
He said he and other members of the panel were prevented from contributing to the final draft of the government-commissioned report because the review was “effectively terminated” on 31 October.
He also said the official report has been “unduly influenced” by HS2 promoters, and said both HS2 Limited and the Department for Transport failed to co-operate with the review properly to substantiate their claims about the cost and benefits.
HS2 Limited denies this claim, saying it provided “full co-operation” with the review.
His report concludes that ministers will either have to accept the higher cost of the line or only build part of the proposed high-speed rail network.
This option, which would save the government £50bn, would also involve upgrading existing Network Rail lines in the Midlands and the north of England, he said.
“The aim must be to give these areas the same standard of commuting service as the south east, whilst, at the same time, improving the existing lines from London northwards,” Lord Berkeley said in the report.