'Financial problems gather for HS2 and Crossrail projects'

Reports of gathering financial problems for the High Speed Two (HS2) and Crossrail infrastructure projects feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Financial Times (subscription) reports that London’s Crossrail project "will demand ‘hundreds of millions’ of pounds from the government in its third bailout of the year, according to people familiar with the growing crisis at the London rail project".

Meanwhile, the Times (subscription) reports that the chairman of HS2 said yesterday that there was "still a lot of work to do" to deliver the project on time and on budget. The paper says that "Sir Terry Morgan, who is expected to be sacked today or tomorrow, said that it would be ‘very difficult’ to make sure that the £56 billion project was built within its price".

Writing in the Times, transport commentator Christian Wolmar says that sacking Sir Terry Morgan won’t solve the project’s problems. He writes: "One suspects that Sir Terry’s mistake was that he took a quick look at HS2 and suggested reform of its management methods. That may have involved banging heads together and showing the door to some of the contractors in order to create the kind of collegiate atmosphere that worked at Crossrail. The government, wary of bad news about its controversial megaproject, is choosing to shoot the messenger instead."

The Times also reports that "councils are still spending more than £100 million a month betting on the commercial property market despite guidelines limiting the practice as fears grow of a collapse in prices". The paper says that "local authorities have spent £1.8 billion in the last year buying retail centres, shops and offices, chasing returns to replace revenue lost in government cuts. They have spent more than £3 billion since 2013 and some have spent huge multiples of their annual income".

The Guardian reports that "Mike Ashley, the founder and chief executive of Sports Direct, has called for a tax on retailers that make more than a fifth of sales online as he said many high streets were ‘already dead’ and more would be killed off without government intervention".

The Times reports that online rentals platform Airbnb is entering the housebuilding market. The website "has changed the way people travel, becoming one of the biggest disruptors to the hotel trade — and now it is coming for housebuilders", the paper says, adding that "the San Francisco-based home-sharing giant is to start designing and building ‘affordable’ homes from next year".

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