'Stop HS2' banner is displayed outside a home near to the Shimmer housing development which will be part demolished to make way for the HS2 high-speed rail link on July 17, 2017 in Mexborough, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Britain’s government on Wednesday launched a review into a high-speed railway linking London with other major English cities, after new Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised the project’s huge cost.

The Department for Transport said it had commissioned an independent review into High Speed 2 (HS2) that would connect the capital in the south with the central England city of Birmingham by 2026 – and with northern cities including Manchester thereafter.

A initial build-cost for the entire project of £33 billion given in 2012 has since surged to around £56 billion ($68 billion, 61 billion euros) – and is set to soar further.

Johnson recently warned that HS2 would cost more than £100 billion – but also signalled that the project would continue following costly construction work already through Britain’s countryside and after a review that could see alter aspects of the high-speed link.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday stressed that HS2 would face a “rigorous” review of its costs and benefits.

“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,” Shapps said in a statement.

“That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.”

The review will be led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee.

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