What is the cost of HS2?

FoI re­quest sub­mit­ted

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - By An­drew Jack­son an­drew.jack­son@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

ANTI-HS2 cam­paign­ers have re­acted with anger about a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest over the cost of the project.

Chiltern Dis­trict Coun­cil­lor Seb Berry, pic­tured, sub­mit­ted a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest ex­plain­ing that the £50bil­lion es­ti­mate was based on 2011 fig­ures and asked for an up­dated amount.

The re­ply from HS2 Ltd sim­ply said: “We do not hold this in­for­ma­tion.”

The Depart­ment for Trans­port is­sued a fuller re­sponse say­ing: “I am writ­ing to ad­vise you that fol­low­ing a thor­ough search of our pa­per and elec­tronic records, I have es­tab­lished that the in­for­ma­tion you re­quested is not held by this depart­ment be­cause we have no busi­ness need to es­ti­mate the cost of HS2 in 2015 prices.”

Coun­cil­lor Berry re­sponded: “It beg­gars be­lief that min­is­ters don’t know what the cur­rent price tag of HS2 is. Surely the DfT must know the an­swer to this most ba­sic of ques­tions?

“In their own PR terms it’s ob­vi­ously bet­ter for Gov­ern­ment and HS2 Ltd to keep us­ing the lower 2011 prices fig­ure.”

Stop HS2 cam­paign manager Joe Rukin added: “The ar­ro­gance from the Depart­ment for Trans­port, not just that they don’t know the cur­rent price of HS2, but that they don’t see any need to know what it is, is both as­tound­ing and com­pletely ir­re­spon­si­ble. You would have thought that the Gov­ern­ment might think that the ef­fect of in­fla­tion, es­pe­cially when con­struc­tion wage in­fla­tion was four times that of av­er­age wages and three times gen­eral in­fla­tion last year is im­por­tant when they started with a cost of £32bn in 2010 and are al­ready up to £50bn.

“The Gov­ern­ment’s own fig­ures for public sec­tor con­struc­tion show that the cost of con­tracts went up by 13% be­tween 2011 and 2014, but they are choos­ing not to ap­ply this fact to the cost of HS2, be­cause it will dam­age the case for their van­ity project.”

Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said: “With spend­ing on HS2 ex­pected to be sev­eral bil­lion a year in the next few years, it is in­con­ceiv­able that they do not keep track of the ex­pected costs to the Bri­tish tax­payer.

“If they don’t know what things should cost in cur­rent terms at a time when they are ne­go­ti­at­ing con­tracts with sup­pli­ers, they will never be able to keep con­trol of the bud­get in the fu­ture.

“There is just too great a po­ten­tial for er­rors and mas­sive over­spends.”

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