David Pitchford, the head of the Major Projects Authority has told the Daily Telegraph that HS2 is likely to stay on an “Amber-Red” rating for the considerable future. HS2 was first judged to be amber-red in November 2011, which is described 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 ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible”.
While a recent report from the MPA confirmed the project remained on amber-red alert when assessed in June 2012, it has never been officially admitted that the project stayed amber-red after the November 2012 assessment, besides one incident when Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin declined to rebut claims of a third consecutive amber-red assessment at a recent demonstration In Kenilworth. The revelations from Mr Pitchford are a tacit admission that HS2 stayed at amber-red both in November 2012 and just recently in June 2013, meaning HS2 has now had four successive amber-red assessments.
Pitchford told The Daily Telegraph:
“The reality of it is, there’s a lot of things need to be defined before, for it to come out of Amber/Red, or a rating similar to that. Before there’ll be a significant change in our assessment of it, there will need to be less uncertainty.”
Whilst it is now assumed that HS2 has received four consecutive amber-red ratings, what is not known is what any of those reports say. Despite David Cameron previously setting out a transparency agenda, the idea is that all MPA reports should be kept secret for two years, meaning the first report would only become available in November, around the time the HS2 Hybrid Bill goes to Parliament. However, back in June The Information Commissioner ruled the Project Assessment Review, which gave HS2 it’s first amber-red rating must be released in both the public interests, and to comply with Environmental Information Regulations. The Government has decided to appeal this decision, which could set a precedent forcing not only the release of all of the MPAs HS2 reports, but assessments of other projects as well. It is expected that the appeal will take place in September, though there is potentially another stage of appeal beyond it.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager, Joe Rukin said:
“The Information Commissioner has been very clear, the details of why the Major Projects Authority think HS2 is a disaster waiting to happen must be released, both in the public interests and to comply with environmental legislation, but that is not good enough for a Government who want to make sure their consistent incompetence on HS2 remains buried. It is a disgrace that MPs weren’t told just how badly HS2 has been managed before they were asked to vote on a blank cheque for it. It is not in the public interests and completely undemocratic to withhold this information.”
“David Cameron said that he wanted to ‘set new standards for transparency’, but wants to keep the MPA reports on HS2 buried.HS2 has now remained on amber-red alert for four reports over two years and looks like it is going to stay there. It doesn’t look like the ‘urgent action’ these reports have called for has happened, and the question of ‘whether resolution is feasible’ seems to have been answered with a big fat ‘no’. How can it be that reports with no other intention that to assess the viability of spending billions of pounds can be a state secret? The reports must be released now before MPs take another vote and this Whitehall Elephant gets truly out of control.”