'Poor value'

High speed trains ‘will be slower than existing ones’

HS2 train
HS2 trains will be slower than existing ones because of older track

Cancellation of the northern stretch of HS2 means the truncated high-speed rail line will offer “very poor value for money for the taxpayer” and trains that will run slower than existing rolling stock, according to a hugely critical report.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also questions how land and property acquired and no longer needed will be disposed of and how £36 billion not being spent on the northern leg will be re-directed.

It says the Government has accepted that delivering only Phase 1 from London to Birmingham will not be value for money, “as its total costs significantly outweigh its benefits”.

The Department for Transport (DfT) told the committee it was still better to complete Phase 1 but the committee said it “has been left with little assurance over the calculations, and calls for a clear summation of Phase 1’s benefits”.

As repeatedly highlighted by the committee, cost overruns and delays have been a constant problem throughout the whole HS2 project. The estimated cost of the completion of Phase 1 with inflation range as high as £67bn.

It says “poor cost management” indicates a “failure of governance and oversight at both HS2 Ltd and DfT”, and the report calls for answers within six months as to how these issues will now be brought under acceptable and properly accountable control.

The report warns there are urgent decisions to be made on funding the development of HS2 Euston, which is dependent on attracting private finance to pay for it. The Government has no plan yet on how to make this happen, and the PAC is highly sceptical that investment can be attracted of the scale and speed required to make Euston a success.

Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “The decision to cancel HS2’s Northern leg was a watershed moment that raises urgent and unanswered questions, laid out in our report.

“What happens now to the Phase 2 land, some of which has been compulsorily purchased? Can we seriously be actively working towards a situation where our high-speed trains are forced to run slower than existing ones when they hit older track?

“Most importantly, how can the Government now ensure that HS2 deliver the best possible value for the taxpayer?

“HS2 is the biggest ticket item by value on the Government’s books for infrastructure projects. As such, it was crying out for a steady hand at the tiller from the start.

“But, here we are after over a decade of our warnings on HS2’s management and spiralling costs – locked into the costly completion of a curtailed rump of a project and many unanswered questions and risks still attached to delivery of even this curtailed project.”



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