Some of the reasons for the announcement on HS2 from Rishi Sunak are becoming clearer, as it has been revealed that HS2 bosses had intended to keep parliament in the dark over the actual costs of phase 2b of HS2 to Manchester.
Recently published HS2 Ltd board minutes from May state that “The Board noted that a formal cost position for the Phase will be provided at the point of Royal Assent.”, meaning it was the intention of HS2 Ltd not to inform parliament about the actual known costs of the project, until they had voted to approve it. Campaigners in Cheshire believe that due to the geology of the Cheshire Salt Plains, sections of HS2 in this area could have cost as much as £1bn per mile, due to the extensive need to underpin track on the proposed route.
This follows on from 2015, when HS2 minister Nus Ghani told parliament that the budget for HS2 was £55.7bn before the vote in parliament to approve Phase 1 of the project, despite the fact she and Transport Minister Chris Grayling had been informed that the project could not be delivered for that price, with there already being a £6-7bn gap in the cost of Phase 1.
The May minutes also include a page long discussion about the current state of the Curzon Street station in Birmingham, which has been completely redacted.
Founder of Stop HS2 Joe Rukin responded:
“While HS2 has dominated the headlines over the last few weeks, the one important truth, of how much the line to Manchester would actually cost has never come out, and it now turns out the plan from HS2 Ltd was to wait until MPs had voted to approve the project before they actually bothered to say what the price tag would be. This is exactly what happened in 2015 when MPs voted for Phase 1 on a budget that HS2 Ltd knew could not be delivered. Yet while there has been so much noise over the HS2 debate, these facts which highlight the real reason why HS2 is such a mess – that it has always been run by unaccountable incompetents trying to build the world’s greatest gravy train has been completely ignored.”
“There has been not a shred of integrity or transparency concerning HS2, a project that has been run in the most unaccountable way possible, and they just kept getting away with it, and that it is why this is now the most expensive train wreck in history. The whole thing, needs to be stopped right now, the scarred sites should be returned to nature, and a fully resourced investigation needs to be called immediately.”
In response to the fact that HS2 bosses had chosen to keep the costs of Phase 2b secret, Sarah Flannery, committee member of Mid Cheshire Against HS2 who first uncovered this fact said:
“It looks as though HS2 Ltd has been allowed to casually burn through taxpayers’ cash – there has never been a penny coming from external investment – with scant oversight from Parliament despite numerous red flags from various bodies such as the Public Accounts Committee and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority,”.
“It is scandalous that HS2 Ltd was apparently intent of keeping the true costs of HS2 Phase 2b under wraps up to the point of Royal Assent. By not providing a formal cost position to MPs until the point of Royal Assent, it means that HS2 Ltd was expecting MPs to waive through approval for Royal Assent without prior possession of the facts. For the record, Mid Cheshire Against HS2 estimates that this leg could cost £1billion per mile due to the challenging geology.”
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2 added:
“Once again HS2 Ltd have tried to hide the true costs of HS2 from Members of Parliament before they vote on it. These are not the actions of an organisation that thinks they are doing the right thing for the country, these are the actions of an organisation that sees the gravy train about to hit the wall and is desperately trying to line their own pockets as fast as they can.”
“Following on from on the pause of the route into Euston and the cancellation of the unviable eastern leg of HS2, what is now happening to HS2 is death by a thousand cuts, it’s time the Government, put this white elephant out of its misery and cancel HS2 in full.”
“The remaining section between the London suburbs and Birmingham clearly has no economic case and is causing huge environmental damage. There was never a good case for HS2 to start off with, and we call on the government to cancel HS2 in its entirety and disband HS2 Ltd as fast as possible.”