A Channel 4 hatchet job on the HS2 project is set to air tonight, with the Dispatches team quoting sources within the government who warn that the cost may soon be considered so high that the entire thing may be binned – or perhaps terminated once the first stretch of the new rail line reaches Birmingham.

HS 0.5 they could call that.

The headline claims from industry sources are that the cost of HS2 could reach a staggering £100bn once completed, quite substantially up from both 2011's initial estimate of £33bn and today's £56bn promise.

A poll put together for the investigation found that two-thirds of rail users in the north would rather see that sort of money invested in regional rail instead, with the east-west links more important to everyday commuters than another, faster, north-south route, as not everyone's lives involve getting to and from London.

Dispatches says it's heard from government sources that transport bosses are "actively considering" cancelling HS2 in its entirety even at this late stage when holes have been dug and buildings designed, with MPs also said to be secretly ruminating on the option of ending HS2 development once Phase One – the London to Birmingham stretch – is completed, abandoning the second phase that's supposed to send two lines up from Brum to Manchester and Leeds.

The official line from the government, though, is that it remains committed to the high-speed project going ahead as planned, Y-shaped northern branches and all.

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