Today, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has published another report on HS2. Like many previous reports, including ones from this very same committee. The PAC has concluded that HS2 has volatile costs and unrealistic timescales, stating the costs and timescales for HS2 are unknown, with Meg Hillier MP, the chair of the committee saying:
“Parliament and the public are still in the dark about crucial details – not least when the railway will open and how much it is expected to cost and precisely where it will go.”
The committee stated that HS2 Ltd are now expecting the first phase of the project to open a year late, something they categorically denied when evidence of this was first put to them by Stop HS2 earlier this year. The committee also poured scorn on the idea that when HS2 Ltd admitted they had a £9bn overspend, they had immediately found £9bn of savings to cancel this out, or at least £7bn of it. So if the PAC are right, the official cost of HS2 shouldn’t currently be stated as £56bn, but £63bn.
Additionally, the committee identified that the funding package for the project does not include provision for promised regeneration and that it is not clear how High Speed 2 will work with the rest of the transport system, and that HS2 might slow down trains on existing tracks.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“Not for the first time, the Public Accounts Committee has produced a report on HS2 which is stating the bleeding obvious. It has always been the case with HS2 that the costs are volatile, the timescales unrealistic, that there is no money for regeneration and no plan for how it will effect existing trains. We have been saying this for six years, but despite all that, there has always been this irresponsible dogmatic insistence that this white elephant must happen”.
“The whole thing defies any logic whatsoever. It doesn’t seem to matter how bad the case for HS2 is, or how terrible the performance of HS2 Ltd is, there is a collective blindness to reality which seems to dictate it has to happen, no matter how loud the alarm bells ring. The whole thing is totally bonkers.”
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2 added:
“The Public Accounts Committee have added to the huge pile of critical reports on HS2. We’ve been aware for some time that HS2 trains on conventional tracks will be slower than some conventional trains. But it is a real concern that far from being high speed, HS2 could slow down existing fast services north of Manchester.”
“In particular, delays to the timetable of building the railway are no surprise. For the last couple of years, HS2 apologists have insisted that delays even before they begin building will have no effect on the timetable, but they are now talking about opening Phase 1 a year behind schedule. “
“Meanwhile the Phase 2 route announcement was due out two years ago and we are still waiting for it. Instead we have sudden announcements, like the massive change of the route around Sheffield.”