It has been reported that the annual accounts for HS2 Ltd will show that the bloated quango spent over £400m last year, which will bring the total amount of money spent, without a single track being laid, to £1.4bn.
Of course, despite the fact the HS2 Ltd webpage concerning their accounts was ‘updated’ on 22nd June, the actual accounts have yet to appear, despite the fact annual accounts for 2015 and 2014 appeared there in June of those years.
It has been speculated for a number of years that there has been an agenda within HS2 Ltd to burn as much money as possible, and that this would make the project harder to cancel.
However, it has to be remembered that the very, very first thing that Theresa May did when she became Home Secretary in 2010 was to cancel a couple of projects which had already burned through millions of pounds.
Within days of taking office, she announced she would scrap the Labour Governments ID Cards project, after about £257m had been spent on it. Also straight out of the window was an immigration computer system, which had cost slightly more at £259m. However, with that, contracts had already been signed and one of the providers was able to sue for a further £224m. As HS2 Ltd have only just been given permission to start tendering, despite failing ‘Review Point 1’ which was meant to be a requirement for that process to start, this would not be a problem with cancelling HS2 at this point.
The big cancellation from the last Government was the NHS computer system, where mirroring what seems to be the plan with HS2, contracts seemed to have been let in an unnecessary hurry. When it was abandoned, it was expected the total bill would come to £6.4bn, but it probably ended up around twice that. The last available estimate we can find came from the Public Accounts Committee in September 2013. They said £9.8bn had already been spent, with more costs still to come. As such the NHS IT system is the perfect example of getting a massively inflated bill for something that didn’t deliver on its’ promises, because the decision was not taken early enough to pull the plug.
We now have a PM with a record of clearing away the chaff which her predecessor left behind on her desk, and the performance of HS2 Ltd this week at the Public Accounts Committee where £9bn of savings just ‘popped up’ to cancel out a £9bn overspend, should tell her all she needs to know about the believability of their cost estimates.
We can only hope.