The annual report of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which is part of the Cabinet Office, has rated HS2 was amber/red for a fifth consecutive year. It is unlikely that the reasons for this rating will be released as Government have stated in the past that such disclosures would not in the public interest. HS2 is the only major project in the Government portfolio to have been rated as amber/red every year for five years running, with the IPA (and its’ predecessor the MPA) defining ‘amber/red’ as:
“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 address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible.”
The IPA report will almost certainly join the previous reports from the MPA, along with the special report on HS2 compiled by head of the civil service Sir Jeremy Heywood last year, and ‘review point one’ which HS2 Ltd failed, in not being published. In 2014, HS2 Ltd Chairman Sir David Higgins admitted that a report from the MPA had contained “75 different complex questions that we have been asked to address” but the details of those ‘complex questions’ has never been made public.
In previous years such reports have not been published to the public, or even made available to MPs and Lords when they have had to vote on the scheme. Previous requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been refused, with HS2 Ltd, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Transport stating that releasing such information is “Not in the public interests”.
The Department for Transport responded to the assessment by saying it:
“Reflects the overall complexity of the project and should be seen in the light of the very significant progress made recently on all phases of the programme, as set out below. HS2 is in excellent shape and substantial progress has been made in all areas of the programme this year.”
However Crossrail, which Ministers have been keen to compare HS2 with in terms of complexity and deliverability, has consistently been rated as ‘amber/green’, the second best of the five possible ratings, every year for the last five years, during which HS2 has been rated as ‘amber/red’ which is the second worst rating. It is also of note that Midland Mainline electrification, which was cancelled this week, was rated better than HS2 at ‘amber’, meaning that Successful delivery appears feasible, problems appear resolvable, and these should not cause problems with costs or the scheduling.
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 Campaign Manager responded;
“For five years straight the Governments’ own project watchdog has said rated the chances of getting HS2 right as ‘in doubt with major risks’, and it that might not even be possible to fix all the problems. But while HS2 gets is rated amber/red yet again, all the signals for blowing billions of pounds on this white elephant while far more worthy projects get binned are green.”
“It is simply bonkers that HS2 has been forever rated by Government experts as a disaster waiting to happen, yet Government prioritises it above everything else. But then again, the CEOs of some of the firms that got billion pound contracts this week give donations to the Conservative Party, and that is what really matters, not whether this is a project that the country really needs, but whether you mates can rake in gigantic profits at the taxpayers’ expense. If everything works out right and HS2 comes in massively over budget, which it probably will as it has always been rated by government as a disaster waiting to happen, there might be bigger party donations next time, who knows?”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 added;
“In the last week before the Parliamentary recess, HS2 contracts were issued for £6.6 billion, and yet rail electrification elsewhere was cancelled. We’ve also seen that HS2 staff have been given unauthorised redundancy payments, and HS2 gets yet another amber/red warning. It seems that HS2 is an untouchable grand project, whereas other smaller schemes that would benefit people across the country are ditched.
“When David Cameron and George Osbourne were in charge, people thought they had a blind spot when it came to the HS2 flaws. It seems surprising that Theresa May and Philip Hammond aren’t willing to take a clear sighted look at it.”