The Major Projects Authority have confirmed that there hasn’t been enough evidence-based material produced to support HS2, the proposed high speed rail link and that a new ‘assurance and oversight’ group has been set up to provide more assessment of the project. The new scrutiny for HS2 was revealed at this weeks’ session of the Public Accounts Committee. In a previous session (April 18th) of the PAC, Department for Transport officials had reluctantly revealed that the MPA had assessed the HS2 project as ‘Amber Red’, meaning “The 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 ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible.”
Various Freedom of Information requests for the release of the report have been recently rejected on the grounds that release is ‘not in the public interests’ and Members of Parliament have also not been allowed to see the report, which is only due for publication after MPs will have been asked to vote on HS2. Indeed, if it had not been for PAC Chair Margaret Hodge MP pressing the DfT on April 18th, even the fact that HS2 has been given an ‘Amber-Red’ status would not be known.
The exchange below from the PAC meeting this week can be viewed via the Stop HS2 youtube page, as can various exchanges from the April 18th Meeting.
Margaret Hodge MP, Chair Public Accounts Committee;
“Did they [The Treasury] use the hard evidence to ensure assurance recommendations or not? When we looked at this, we felt that they had not used the appropriate hard evidence in taking that decision? There may have been other reasons for taking it, but it didn’t look to us to be based on hard evidence, which is what you require.”
David Pitchford, Executive Director, Major Projects Authority;
“I think that is a function of where the project is at. There is only so much evidence based material in relation to it now because of what needs to be done to get the project to full blown definition and therefore assessment stage, and that’s why we’ve put a whole lot of new assessment activity into it. Since you had your hearing about HS1 and related to HS2, you may be interested to know that we have put in an integrated assurance and oversight group, which will include the MPA, The Treasury, The Department [for Transport], HS2 Ltd, The NAO as an observer and IUK, together with the engineering consulting partner, so we’ve started to look at the overall piece again so that there is another element to this. With the Hybrid Bill demanding complete definition of the design elements of it and then all of the elements which go to the planning approval stage for this project which is going to be massive, there is just not going to be sufficient evidence to be able to nail it at this point.”
In response to these developments, Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“One of the reasons that opposition to HS2 has been so vocal for the last two years has been that the Government and HS2 Ltd have never been interested in doing this properly, they have only been interested in doing this quickly, a point heavily underlined at the farcical Community Forums which have been recently taking place. The head of the Major Projects Authority has now gone on the record saying that there just isn’t the evidence to back up the claims about HS2. We know that because there never has been any real evidence, the arguments to support HS2 were thought up after Lord Adonis decided we needed it without conducting any appraisals. It is welcome that there will be more scrutiny of the plans for HS2, but no matter how hard you stare at a load of old rubbish, at the end of the day, it will still be a load of old rubbish.”