Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced the launch of an independent review of the HS2 high-speed rail programme to determine whether the project should proceed.

Shapps has appointed civil engineer and former Crossrail chairman Douglas Oakervee to lead the review, working with Lord Berkeley, another civil engineer who is currently VP of the Alliance of Rail New Entrants (ALLRAIL) and worked on the construction of the Channel Tunnel.

The Department for Transport (DfT) today published terms of reference for the review, which will consider the benefits and impacts of HS2, along with its affordability and efficiency, deliverability and scope, and its phasing, including its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Oakervee’s final report is due to be given to Shapps, with oversight from prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Sajid Javid, by the autumn.

The report will inform the government’s decisions on the next steps for HS2, whether that is to scrap it altogether or adjust the phases of the project – the first of which is already underway and is due to connect London and Birmingham by the end of 2026.

The House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee raised questions about HS2 earlier this year, publishing a report that claimed the £55.7 billion budget could increase – something MPs warned of in 2016.

Shapps commented: “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.”

Oakervee added: “The prime minister has asked me to lead this important review into the HS2 programme. I look forward to working with my deputy, Lord Berkeley, to advise the government on how and whether to progress with HS2, based on all existing evidence.”

The review adds to doubts that have been raised about major travel infrastructure projects since Johnson became prime minister last month. Shapps has raised concerns about building a third runway at Heathrow, saying he would need to consider “whether the whole plan stacks up”.

Read Gareth Morgan’s latest Westminster Watch column about why HS2 and Heathrow could be sticking points for Johnson, whose constituency is impacted by both projects.

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