Late HS1 re­port sparks con­cern

Re­sults could im­pact on HS2 plans

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Kather­ine Cle­men­tine

ANTI-HS2 cam­paign­ers are ‘deeply con­cerned’ that the Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) may have buried a re­port which could have ‘un­der­mined’ the case for the high speed rail pro­ject.

The Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee, a par­lia­men­tary se­lect com­mit­tee en­sur­ing govern­ment ex­pen­di­tures are ef­fec­tive and hon­est, pub­lished a re­port into the sell-off of HS1, on Jan­uary 20.

They state it was ‘un­ac­cept­able’ that DfT buried a re­port that would have un­der­mined the case for HS2, which shows that the costs of HS1 sig­nif­i­cantly out­weighed the eco­nomic ben­e­fits, as the in­for­ma­tion came two years later than ex­pected.

The re­port high­lights con­cerns that the de­lay pre­vented the “scru­tiny of other projects such as High Speed 2”.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the com­mit­tee, said: “It is deeply con­cern­ing that work to­wards HS2 should have pro­gressed with­out full and de­tailed con­sid­er­a­tion of HS1.

“The Govern­ment’s eval­u­a­tion of HS1, pro­duced at the urg­ing of this com­mit­tee, could and ar­guably should have been a key piece of ev­i­dence in scru­ti­n­is­ing plans for HS2.

“In­stead it ar­rived two years late, since when the Govern­ment has claimed ben­e­fits aris­ing from HS1 that can­not be mea­sured by its own method­ol­ogy. It is sim­ply not good enough.”

The DfT re­port states that even though HS1 was pri­va­tised for more than was ex­pected, it will still rep­re­sent a loss to the tax­payer of £5.9bn over 60 years.

In Oc­to­ber, the Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice said the HS1 pro­ject had pro­duced a ben­e­fit cost ra­tio of just 0.53, mean­ing for ev­ery pound spent on the pro­ject, 47p had been thrown away.

The re­port out­lines con­cerns that ev­i­dence pro­vided by the depart­ment im­plies that its own method­ol­ogy, which it uses to jus­tify new in­vest­ments such as High Speed 2, is in­ad­e­quate.

The DfT claimed the de­lay was down to the com­plex­ity of the work but the com­mit­tee ar­gues that pub­lish­ing the eval­u­a­tion was clearly not a pri­or­ity due to the “un­favourable re­sult it con­tained”.

Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 cam­paign man­ager, thinks the ben­e­fits for HS1 and HS2 are ‘in­vented’.

He said: “From the start we have seen noth­ing but pre­var­i­ca­tion, ob­fus­ca­tion and de­lay from the Depart­ment for Trans­port when it comes to pub­lish­ing re­ports which tell the truth about projects like HS1 and HS2.

“It is un­ac­cept­able

sim­ply that MPs will be asked again to vote on HS2 whilst two years of re­ports from the Ma­jor Projects Au­thor­ity which have rated the pro­ject as be­ing in sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger of fail­ing are kept from them.”

DfT said the case for HS2 is “ab­so­lutely clear”.

A spokesman added: “The eco­nomic ben­e­fit has been recog­nised by MPs of all par­ties who voted strongly in favour of HS2 at the se­cond read­ing of the hy­brid Bill, and the Trans­port Se­lect Com­mit­tee has been clear the scheme is the only prac­ti­cal way to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease rail ca­pac­ity.

“It will im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity, free up space on our crowded rail net­work, pro­mote re­gen­er­a­tion, boost skills and gen­er­ate thou­sands of jobs.”

n SCRU­TINY: MP Meg Hillier chair of the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee

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