CAMPAIGNERS have again called for HS2 to be scrapped after a report by government’s spending watchdog found it was over budget and behind schedule.
The National Audit Office report found the high speed line – 55 kilometres of which will cut through Warwickshire – had been underestimated by the Department for Transport (DfT), HS2 Ltd and the wider government, resulting in significant challenges to completing the project, and delivering value for taxpayers and passengers remained.
It also revealed government body the Infrastructure and Projects Authority twice gave HS2 a ‘red’ rating meaning successful delivery of the project was unachievable.
Joe Rukin from Kenilworth, who has been among campaigners camped out in Crackley Woods – which is set to be affected by the line – says it is time to cancel HS2.
The Stop HS2 campaign manager told the Observer: “This national embarrassment has to be cancelled immediately.
“This report is absolutely devastating, not only because the National Audit Office say the costs of HS2 still aren’t clear, the risks were never assessed properly, and their timelines make it absolutely clear parliament was deliberately misled over the costs of HS2, but also because they have revealed that HS2 has been officially rated as red since last June, meaning successful delivery of the project is unachievable, but this fact was hidden from the public and parliamentarians.”
The DfT said in 2015 HS2 would cost up to £88billion, although it is currently not known what the final cost will be.
Trains are not set to start running until between 2036 and 2040, up to seven years later than originally planned.
The report also says the DfT and HS2 have not adequately managed risks to taxpayer money. They have tried to understand and contain costs but have been unable to bring them within the available funding, or enable passenger services to start by the planned date.
But since last April HS2 has been planning a new schedule for the line.
The report makes a number of recommendations to government, DfT and HS2 around the cost and schedule estimates and how to manage the programme.
These include being more transparent and providing ‘realistic’ assessments of costs and completion dates.
But the Confederation of British Industry claims the line is still needed.
West Midlands CBI Regional Director Richard Butler said: “HS2 is an ambitious project and the NAO report usefully highlights the challenges of delivering large-scale infrastructure. But what is clear to the CBI and business generally, is the colossal cost of not delivering HS2.
“If the government truly believes in levelling up the regions, especially the West Midlands, it should deliver HS2 in full. Doing so will allow us to unlock the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, deliver better east-west transport improvements and add rocket boosters under our economy. It is exactly the post-Brexit project the government should be championing.
“HS2 is the only shovel ready project that can deliver massive benefits for the Midlands and the North and all of the UK. The CBI’s message is clear – back it, build it and benefit from it.”
The government is set to consider the findings of the Oakervee report shortly having been delivered a draft copy shortly before Christmas.