Cam­paign­ers call for scheme to be scrapped fol­low­ing lat­est Au­dit Of­fice rev­e­la­tions

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

On Tues­day The Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice (NAO) de­liv­ered its’ third re­port on HS2, which ad­mits the cost of Phase 1 of HS2 has risen by £3 bil­lion since Novem­ber and that £9 bil­lion worth of cuts to the project are be­ing con­sid­ered. The re­port says:

The 2026 tar­get open­ing date for phase 1 is at risk.

By May 2016, HS2 Ltd had the ca­pa­bil­ity it had planned to reach in July 2015, but did not pass re­view point 1 ow­ing to con­cerns about cost and sched­ule.

At the 2015 Spend­ing Re­view, the es­ti­mated cost of phase 2 ex­ceeded avail­able fund­ing by £7 bil­lion.

A re­view com­mis­sioned by the Cabi­net Of­fice has iden­ti­fied po­ten­tial sav­ings of £9 bil­lion, £2 bil­lion of which have been se­cured.

The £55.7 bil­lion fund­ing pack­age does not cover fund­ing for all the ac­tiv­ity needed to de­liver the promised growth and re­gen­er­a­tion ben­e­fits which is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. There is risk that these ben­e­fits will not ma­te­ri­alise if fund­ing can­not be se­cured.

Ef­fec­tive in­te­gra­tion of HS2 with the wider UK rail sys­tem is chal­leng­ing and poses risks to value for money.

Stop HS2 Cam­paign Man­ager Joe Rukin said: “The Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice has raised se­ri­ous ques­tions about the timescales for HS2, the in­creas­ing costs, re­duc­ing ben­e­fits and that parts of the project are still un­funded, but none of that should be a sur­prise, as this has been the story with HS2 since the start.

“Of most con­cern is that it is ab­so­lutely clear the costs are still out of con­trol, and the NAO state the Cabi­net Of­fice have iden­ti­fied po­ten­tial sav­ings of £9bil­lion. If this leads to the spec­u­lated out­come of the western side of HS2 only run­ning from Worm­wood Scrubs to a field out­side Crewe, af­ter links to Heathrow and HS1 have al­ready been shelved, you re­ally have to ask if there is any point to it at all any­more.

“The Gov­ern­ment must come clean right away about what level the fore­cast cost for HS2 is ac­tu­ally at, and what the scope of HS2 be­ing con­sid­ered now ac­tu­ally is.

“This is an­other in a long line of dev­as­tat­ing re­ports about HS2, which in the past no-one has lis­tened to. We can only hope that with a new Prime Min­is­ter on the cards, some­one will fi­nally pay at­ten­tion and can­cel this white ele­phant.”

Stop HS2 Chair Penny Gaines added: “What is most as­tound­ing from this re­port is that over seven years from when HS2 Ltd was set up, the Depart­ment for Trans­port still does not know how HS2 will work with the rest of the rail net­work. And yet this is a fun­da­men­tal is­sue with the project. Get it wrong, and many of the sup­posed ben­e­fits of a new high speed rail­way will turn to costs to the con­ven­tional rail­way.

“With the EU ref­er­en­dum re­sult, there will have to be changes to the gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties. The new Prime Min­is­ter, who­ever they are, should have a search­ing look at the many crit­i­cal re­ports over the years, and can­cel HS2 as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The NAO re­port was writ­ten be­fore the Brexit vote, so it does not spec­u­late on what ef­fect, if any, it could have on HS2.

How­ever, Che­sham and Amer­sham MP Ch­eryl Gil­lan said: “I am once again wor­ried that there is un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing the de­liv­ery of this project, which only serves to drag out the pain and an­guish of my con­stituents. This fol­lows a state­ment by the Prime Min­is­ter on June 9 say­ing that plans for HS2 and HS3 are ‘fully in­tact’ if the UK re­mains in the Euro­pean Union.

“I have writ­ten to the Gov­ern­ment to clar­ify what is hap­pen­ing.”

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