Less than four weeks ago Nus Ghani, Transport minister, was adamant in telling the House of Commons that
“there is only one budget for HS2, and it is £55.7 billion“.
That was then: but now its a new month, and a new Prime Minister, and it seems a new, unknown HS2 budget.
On Monday, in a written answer to a question on the HS2 budget, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Baroness Vere answered
“HS2 Ltd continues to update its cost estimates as the project develops. In relation to HS2 Phase One, we will make these details public as part of the business case which will inform Notice to Proceed later in 2019.”
In a stroke, the HS2 budget has gone from fixed and known, to uncertain and variable.
But in June, in response to the House of Commons Library staff who produced a briefing which said HS2 costs were known to be £65 bn as early as 2016, Department for Transport staff had said
“We fundamentally disagree with this report and this figure is incorrect. The Spending Review in 2015 established a long term funding envelope of £55.7bn and we expect HS2 Ltd to deliver to this budget.”
What is really telling is that with Chris Grayling as Transport secretary, ministers had been adamant that HS2 had a fixed budget, while senior HS2 staff wheedled with suppliers to get the costs of HS2 down. But this latest answer vindicates the House of Commons staff, and in fact everyone who has been asking questions about the budget.
High Speed 2 Railway Line:
Written question – HL17372
Q Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick on 22 July 2019
Department for Transport
High Speed 2 Railway Line Question Number: HL17372
Q: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the present total cost of HS2.
Answered by: Baroness Vere of Norbiton on 05 August 2019
A: HS2 Ltd continues to update its cost estimates as the project develops. In relation to HS2 Phase One, we will make these details public as part of the business case which will inform Notice to Proceed later in 2019.
The House of Lords say they were deliberately misled by the Dept. of Transport, by understating the cost of HS2 by a significant margin, as they were frightened that the Commons would not pass the appropriate bill. Now Grayling has gone and Ms.Ghani no longer has any responsibility for HS2, may we now assume that the new Sec. of State will tell the truth about the known cost? Don’t hold your breath!