Lat­est re­port re­veals ‘ris­ing storm' for the fu­ture of HS2

Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice scru­tiny and se­nior staff not re­lo­cat­ing cited as causes for con­cern

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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.

The pa­per

quoted

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.”

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