The news that HS2 Ltd has overshot its allocated budget of £101 million by £87 million suggests that maybe now would be a good time to apply the ‘no blank cheque’ test to the project. It is, of course, the taxpayer who is funding this significant overspending arising from consultants’ contracts for the first phase of the high-speed line.
The lack of concern on the part of HS2 Ltd is remarkable. Claiming that the scheme is remaining within budget only has meaning if set against what you are getting for the money. Over-shooting so comprehensively on consultants’ fees does not indicate the company is running a tight ship, or train, to be more accurate.
The claim that that HS2 Ltd has procured professional contractors’ services to produce a scheme that has an exemplary approach to environmental mitigation will surprise many, not least the Environmental Audit Select Committee. A more recognisable assessment would be to point to an abject failure so far to engage effectively with those communities that will be devastated by HS2.
If, three years away from the first shovel being turned with purpose there is little evidence that a grip is being kept on finances, what hope for the future? With one of the parties backing HS2 on the basis of there being ‘no blank cheque’, the obvious question is to ask exactly what does it take to trigger such a review? Given HS2′s voracious appetite for taxpayers’ money, getting an answer can’t come soon enough.