A damning report from the Public Accounts Committee has today concluded that HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport deliberated lied to them about the fact they knew HS2 could not be delivered on time, on budget or on scope, withholding information which would have informed parliament and the public about the true nature of the project.
The report found:
- The Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd’s lack of transparency has undermined public confidence in the programme.
- The DfT failed to provide Parliament with clear warning that the programme was going off-course and value for money was at risk.
- Having raised concerns in the past, we are not yet convinced that the Department and HS2 Ltd have the skills and capability they need now or in the future.
- Several years into the programme, we are concerned by the huge uncertainty remaining with the design and delivery of Euston station.
- The Department and HS2 Ltd did not understand the consequences of changes made during scrutiny of Phase One legislation.
- We are concerned, given the scale of the programme and its future impact on the rail network, that if the Department does not give enough attention to managing the interdependencies within the programme and with other rail programmes, passengers will suffer.
- The Department did not convince us that it was making sufficient and meaningful changes to its management of infrastructure programmes
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“Right from the start, HS2 has been a train designed to run on lies. The fundamental philosophy driving the project for over a decade has been to hide the truth, because the justifications for building HS2 were only invented after vested interest lobbyists persuaded Government to back the scheme.”
“The Public Accounts Committee report is quite clear, there has been a deliberate conspiracy to hide the truth about the costs of HS2 from the public and to mislead parliament. In our minds, this is not just a breach of trust, this is malfeasance in public office, this is fraud. It is absolutely clear that there should be an immediate criminal investigation, but because this stench in public office goes right to the top, we know they’ll most likely get away with it, just like they always have.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, added
“Parliament provides scrutiny on the expectation that civil servants and government departments do not lie to MPs and select committees. It is clear in this case, as so often with HS2, that senior civil servants deliberately and carefully set out a misleading picture of the state of the HS2 project to the Public Accounts Committee.
“This is no real surprise to us, as HS2 Ltd have been willing to mislead the general public and people affected by the project, almost from the start.
“Having failed to properly make allowances for the changes made during the hybrid bill stage, they are now blaming Parliament for going too fast, when in fact it was HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport pushing this project through as fast as they could in spite of obvious design problems.
“The committee highlight problems at Euston, and in fact the design there is under judicial review over concerns about the safety of it. We have said for years that HS2 was struggling to keep costs under control and the schedule was long since unachievable. HS2 should be cancelled as soon as possible.”