Latest report reveals ‘rising storm' for the future of HS2
National Audit Office scrutiny and senior staff not relocating cited as causes for concern
The Independent on Sunday reported that the controversial £50bn rail line, is suffering because HS2 executives are concerned about a National Audit Office (NAO) probe and fears that HS2 Ltd is not ready to oversee the project.
It also said that many senior staff have refused to relocate from London to the project’s headquarters in Birmingham, and that many staying in the capital will simply commute on the very line that HS2 is supposed to relieve of congestion. The report says that ministers believe that the project will become bogged down in the House of Lords when the HS2 bill reaches the upper house.
The National Audit Office is looking at the latest position on costs, schedule and programme scope – something that HS2 executives had not expected until later this year.
The probe comes after the costs of the project rose following recommendations from the HS2 select committee that a tunnel through the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty is extended in order to mitigate the impact of the project.
a source close to the project who described the NAO enquiry as an “emerging storm”, saying: “They’re concerned the NAO report is coming at the same time as the Cabinet Office review.”
The Cabinet Office Review was due to start last year but became delayed due to fears that HS2 Ltd could fail important tests.
The review will begin later this month, with the HS2 Bill set to go to the House of Lords later this year. It is planned that royal assent is given by the end of the year, in order that work on the project can start in 2017.
Joe Rukin, campaign manager at Stop HS2, said: “It is completely unprecedented for the NAO to be working on a third report on a project at such an early stage. Previously the NAO said there was a ‘lack of clarity’ regarding HS2 and the Government has been unrealistic about the project, but these serious concerns were brushed aside, so it is no real surprise that the NAO is investigating again. All the independent reports about HS2 have shown it is a disaster waiting to happen.
“The fact HS2 Ltd staff refuse to relocate to Birmingham is the ultimate hypocrisy from overpaid bureaucrats who are only interested in running their own gravy train.”
An HS2 spokesman said: “We welcome the NAO scrutiny as part of a process to ensure we deliver this vital project in the most effective way. We have been pleased to co-operate and work with Government as we approach our first Review Point.
“HS2 Ltd and Government committed to moving our HQ two years ago. This is not only practical (as Birmingham lies at the heart of HS2) it is also cost efficient in terms of, for example, office rent. Inevitably, there will be a mix of new recruitment, relocation and redundancy.”