For a record-breaking sixth year, the HS2 project has been rated as ‘in doubt’ with ‘major risks’, as it has yet again got an amber-red rating from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority in its’ annual report. This sixth straight amber-red rating breaks the previous record of being told for five years that ‘urgent action is needed’, which was of course set last year by HS2 Ltd.
Just in case you’ve forgotten, the IPA definition of ‘amber-red’ is:
“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.”
So whilst every annual report of the IPA (previously the MPA) has produced since its’ creation has basically said: “This is a mess. It’s that much of a mess, we’re not even sure you can ever get it right, so you’d better sort this out sharpish. You do realise this is only just floating above the point at which we’d say ‘stop now’? Again….”, the problem is that literally no-one who has the power to either do anything about this, or could at least provide some serious scrutiny, gives a toss.
Over the last, six years we’ve had various ministers and officials from HS2 Ltd put forward at this point who would say something like “That’s based on old information, it’s all sorted now” before HS2 would get another amber-red rating, proving it clearly wasn’t all sorted now, whilst fighting every step of the way against the publication of the actual reports that say what is wrong with HS2.
More recently, the line has been that “This has to be expected due to the complexity of the project”, basically not admitting that HS2 is a mess, but trying to claim that because it’s a big project it can’t be assessed properly, so nothing to worry about! But this time, because there is no sexy political intrigue associated with HS2 (or at least not enough to tear journalists away from Brexit, the only thing they seem to want to report at the moment), the only journalist who’s even asked for an explanation is from New Civil Engineer, so they haven’t even bothered commenting.
If the seeping septic tank that is HS2 does get the final go ahead when/if the final designs for Phase 1 are signed off this time next year (three years late), in 20 years when it still hasn’t been finished, and it’s gone five times over budget even though it’s been descoped, people will ask “Why did no-one see this coming?”.
Well, as the IPA reports have demonstrated again and again and again, the reality is that anyone who is paying attention can see what is coming. The problem is that for politicians, being bothered to question whether spending tens of billions of on something massively environmentally damaging, that is already starving more deserving projects of funding and only the construction lobby actually want, is simply way too much effort.