Speaking on the BBC Newsnight programme, Sir David Higgins, the new chair of HS2 Ltd has said the project will need “20 to 30 senior people to be paid more than the Prime Minister, within the next six months.” He justified this by saying “The worst money you can save is skimping on paying the best people.” David Cameron earns £140,000 per year.
Given this, it was not a surprise that he refused to guarantee that the project, the £50bn price of which is worked out on 2011 figures, will not go over budget. In May it was revealed that 16 contracts which were signed for a value of £101m were all over budget, running at a cost of £188m.
As part of a new track, Higgins said that HS2 is “Not about trains, it’s about people”, claiming it would distribute wealth throughout the nation, despite the fact many economists believe HS2 will suck more economic activity to London opposed to spread it towards the North. When this point was put to him, he said “It’ll do both.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:
“Last year, David Higgins was given a brief of bringing the costs of HS2 down, but when he delivered his ‘HS2 Plus’ report, he hadn’t saved a single penny. Taxpayers have been bemused so far with the number of exorbitant salaries paid by HS2 Ltd to people, who like him, have been proved to be totally incompetent after being given a remit and completely failing to achieve it.”
“When he was appointed, David Higgins was told to bring costs down, but now he won’t even say he will stop costs going up. The reason for that is simple, because he has no interest in keeping costs down, he wants to stick with the clearly stated principle of HS2, that those in charge can run their own gravy train.”
“Higgins has now come up with a new set of spin for HS2, saying its ‘about people’, not trains. If that was the case, the £50bn investment would be spread out throughout the country, opposed to benefitting a very select few. If you want to rebalance the economy, there are much better ways of spending £50bn and rising to do that.”