Calls have been made to cancel HS2 after a new report revealed that it might not be delivered on time and to budget.
The National Audit Office (NAO) delivered its’ third report on HS2 today (June 28), which admits the cost of Phase 1 of HS2 has risen by £3billion since November and that £9billion worth of cuts to the project are being considered.
The report says:
- The 2026 target opening date for phase 1 is at risk.
- By May 2016, HS2 Ltd had the capability it had planned to reach in July 2015, but did not pass review point 1 owing to concerns about cost and schedule.
- At the 2015 Spending Review, the estimated cost of phase 2 exceeded available funding by £7billion.
- A review commissioned by the Cabinet Office has identified potential savings of £9billion, £2billion of which have been secured.
- There is a risk that the combined impact of cost and schedule pressures result in reduced programme scope, and lower the benefit cost ratio.
- The £55.7billion funding package does not cover funding for all the activity needed to deliver the promised growth and regeneration benefits which is the responsibility of local authorities. There is risk that these benefits will not materialise if funding cannot be secured.
- Effective integration of HS2 with the wider UK rail system is challenging and poses risks to value for money.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said: “The National Audit Office has raised serious questions about the timescales for HS2, the increasing costs, reducing benefits and that parts of the project are still unfunded, but none of that should be a surprise, as this has been the story with HS2 since the start.
“Of most concern is that it is absolutely clear the costs are still control, and the NAO state the Cabinet Office have identified potential savings of £9billionn. If this leads to the speculated outcome of the western side of HS2 only running from Wormwood Scrubs to a field outside Crewe, after links to Heathrow and HS1 have already shelved, you really have to ask if there is any point to it at all anymore. The Government must come clean right away about what level the forecast cost for HS2 is actually at, and what the scope of HS2 being considered now actually is.
“This is another in a long line of devastating reports about HS2, which in the past no-one has listened to. We can only hope that with a new Prime Minister on the cards, someone will finally pay attention and cancel this white elephant.”
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Stop HS2 Chair Penny Gaines added: “As the report says there are still big question marks over the timetable for HS2. There are some obvious issues over their timescale, such as the Phase 2 decision which is already two years late and counting, and on Phase 1 the delay to reaching Review Point 1. Even HS2 Ltd is only 60 per cent confident it will open in 2026.
“What is most astounding from this report is that over seven years from when HS2 Ltd was set up, the Department for Transport still does not know how HS2 will work with the rest of the rail network. And yet this is a fundamental issue with the project. Get it wrong, and many of the supposed benefits of a new high speed railway will turn to costs to the conventional railway.
“With the EU referendum result, there will have to be changes to the government’s priorities. The new Prime Minister, whoever they are, should have a searching look at the many critical reports over the years, and cancel HS2 as soon as possible.”
The NAO report was written before the Brexit vote, so it does not speculate on what effect, if any, it could have on HS2.
However, Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan said: “I am once again worried that there is uncertainty surrounding the delivery of this project, which only serves to drag out the pain and anguish of my constituents. This follows a statement by the Prime Minister on June 9 saying that plans for HS2 and HS3 are ‘fully intact’ if the UK remains in the European Union.
“Now that the UK has determined that we should leave the EU, I have written to the Government to clarify what is happening, so that my constituents can understand the status of the project.”