The House of Commons Library publishes research briefings for MPs, which are updated from time to time. Sometimes these are just single pages from longer reports: others are reports in their own right.
The latest HS2 ‘Standard Note’ SN316 by Louise Butcher was published last week, and can be downloaded from the Parliament website here.
One thing of interest in it was the list of Parliamentary reports looking at the cost of HS2 (these exclude reports by other bodies, such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and New Economics Foundation). The note says:
- Major Projects Authority (MPA): has published two annual reports, detailing the rating it has given to a number of transport projects. In May 2013 it gave HS2 an ‘amber/red’ rating, denoting that “successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible”. In May 2014 HS2 retained its ‘amber/red’ rating; the MPA stated that “The amber/red delivery confidence assessment on HS2, like other projects with a similar assessment, indicates that the focused attention that is being applied to addressing the remaining issues must continue”.
- Treasury Select Committee: published a report in October 2013 on the 2013 Spending Round and stated that the Treasury should not allow HS2 to proceed “until it is sure the cost-benefit analysis for HS2 has been updated to address fully the concerns raised by the National Audit Office” (see below); that the Treasury should publicly quantify the benefits for HS2 “not captured by the existing economic appraisal”; and that prior to any decision by the Treasury to proceed with HS2, it “should publish its own comprehensive economic case supporting its decision”. The Government responded to the report in December 2013, pointing to the recently published Strategic Case and updated Economic Case for HS2 as a response to the Committee’s concerns.
- Public Accounts Committee: published two reports in May 2013 and January 2015 on the back of reports by the National Audit Office (NAO). The 2013 report on preparations for HS2 estimated that there was a £3.3 billion funding gap over four years (2017-18 to 2020-21) which the Government had yet to decide how to fill. It criticised the Department for Transport for making decisions “based on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life” and having a large contingency that appeared “to be compensating for weak cost information”. The 2015 report on major rail infrastructure programmes set out the Committee’s concern that ‘generous contingency funds’ could be used to hide cost overruns, and sought the Government’s assurance that this would not happen.
While the Public Accounts Committee reports and the Treasury Select Committee reports are can be download from the Parliamentary website, the government have repeatedly refused to publish the Major Projects Authority reports, even after the Information Commissioner said they should.