HS2 high-speed rail project could be delayed by a DECADE… and officials have no clue how much it will end up costing taxpayers, new report reveals
- The economy will lose 20p on every £1 spent on HS2 on the project’s first phase
- The National Audit Office warned HS2 will not deliver good value for money
- The first section of the line will run between London and Birmingham
- The northern section of the line will see £1.40 returned for every £1 invested
Ministers have no idea how much HS2 will end up costing, a damning report reveals today.
The high-speed rail project is running wildly over budget and will not deliver good value for money, according to a probe by the National Audit Office.
The Government spending watchdog says the benefit to the immediate economy will be as low as 80p for every £1 spent on ‘phase one’ from London to Birmingham. This rises to a meagre £1.40 for every £1 invested in the full line connecting the capital to the North.
The high-speed rail project is running wildly over budget and will not deliver good value for money, according to a probe by the National Audit Office
Construction work on the project must begin by the end of March if the first phase of HS2 is to open between 2029 and 2033 as planned, the report warns
Construction work on the project must begin by the end of March if the first phase of HS2 is to open between 2029 and 2033 as planned, the report warns.
Even so, full passenger services from Euston to the Midlands might not begin until 2036, ten years later than scheduled –and the full line could take 20 years to finish. So far £7.4billion has been spent without a single piece of track being laid. The Prime Minister and senior ministers will decide within weeks whether to go ahead with the troubled project, scale it back or scrap it entirely. The NAO’s findings will fuel calls for a major rethink of the scheme, the official cost of which could hit £106billion – triple the original £32billion estimate.
Investigators also found that the number of HS2 staff has doubled since 2016 to 1,250.
In all, HS2’s official cost estimate of £88billion, set by the Department for Transport (DfT) in September last year, is 58 per cent more than the available funding of £55.7billion.
The report says HS2’s early £7billion contingency fund was not enough to cover ‘significant increases in cost’ which emerged as issues came to light.
It is impossible to say how much HS2 will cost overall as the second phase of the line, from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, is at a very early stage, the NAO added. The ‘ambitious’ programme will take decades, the watchdog concluded.
‘In not fully and openly recognising the programme’s risks from the outset, the Department and HS2 Ltd have not adequately managed the risks to value for money’, it said.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has commissioned extra data on potential alternatives to HS2 before making a final decision on its future next month.
Last night Andy McDonald, Labour transport spokesman, accused the Tories of ‘woeful’ political leadership over HS2. A DfT spokesman said: ‘We recognise that there have been significant underestimations of both the cost and schedule of HS2 in the past which is why we commissioned the Oakervee review to provide advice on whether and how to proceed with HS2.’
WHAT ARE THE PROPOSALS FOR A 1,000-MILE UK HIGH-SPEED RAIL NETWORK?
A report by Surrey-based think tank Greengauge 21, titled Beyond HS2, said boosting national productivity should be the guiding priority for re-designing the rail network.
The proposals lead to a re-orientation of Britain’s railway – from a single hub around London to a national railway network.
Key proposals include:
1. An upgraded fast route from Birmingham to Bristol Parkway carrying HS2 trains, continuing to the South West and South Wales.
2. A major upgrade to the East Coast mainline for the first time since the 1980s.
3. New high speed lines in Scotland, achieving a three-hour 15-minute journey time between Edinburgh and London.
4. New lines in East Essex and Anglia, alleviating the West Anglia and Great Eastern Mainlines, both of which are at capacity.
5. Bringing Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull together with new connections to form ‘an effective and powerful economic unit’.