An army of consultants and new staff has seen the costs of the HS2 project almost treble from £4.7m per month in the 2011-2012 financial year to £13m per month in the first five months of the current financial year.
In a written response to question from Cheryl Gillan MP, the newly appointed Transport Minister Simon Burns listed total expenditure rounded to the nearest whole number as £9 million for 2009-10, £24 million for 2010-11, £56 million for 2011-12 and £65 million so far for 2012-13. Oddly, the Press Association reported this as “HS2 project has cost £65m so far”, which would have more correctly been reported as “HS2 project has cost £65m in the five months from April to August”.
In fact, the project has cost £154m since 2009 with 42% of that being spent since April. Costs are set to keep rising, as since January HS2 Ltd have taken on new staff and signed consultancy contracts in excess of £102m, all of which have to be completed in time for the deposition of the Hybrid Bill, scheduled for this time next year.
Whilst HS2 Ltd have already started tendering for consultants associated with Stage 2 of the project which would consist of the links to Heathrow, Leeds and Manchester, Minister for Transport Simon Burns has announced that there has been a further delay in the publication of these routes, which will not now happen until December, leading to speculation that the Government are waiting for the outcome of five legal challenges which will be heard from the 3rd of December.
Despite new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin telling the Transport Select Committee that he had not yet looked at the plans for Stage 2 last week, also last week in an answer to Andrew Bridgen MP, Burns said “The advice received from HS2 Ltd is currently being considered objectively and in detail. The Department’s business plan indicates that we intend to publish for consideration the Government’s preferred route and station options by December.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Co-ordinator Joe Rukin said;
“The amount of money HS2 Ltd is now spending is absolutely criminal. The consultants have moved in and despite the fact we are five years away from the first sod being turned, the taxpayer is already stumping up £13 million pounds each month. The only thing HS2 Ltd have ever been good at is spending the money which the country supposedly doesn’t have for more important things.”
“The Stage 2 route has been sat on a desk in the Department for Transport for six months now, and we have been waiting for the consultations on securing the route and the final compensation package for that long too. We have one person in the DfT saying the plans are being considered in detail and another saying he hasn’t bothered looking at them at all! It is getting to the point where there can only be one reason for this continued delay, that the Government are waiting to see how the legal challenges go. Maria Eagle, the Shadow Secretary of State has already said that she expects the Government to lose based on the inadequacies of the consultation, which could mean the Government is forced to consult all over again. With so many strong legal challenges to come, it is completely irresponsible and wasteful to continue spending money at such a staggering rate.”