Treasury has doubts on HS2, Transport Select Committee says “there is no transport strategy”, but HS2 Ltd carry on spinning.

In a major boost for Stop HS2 campaigners, following a recent report from the Major Projects Authority, board minutes from HS2 Ltd have revealed that the Treasury has delayed payments for the scheme, the effect of which puts the project at risk. In addition, the Transport Select Committee have today produced a report into the financial scrutiny of the Department for Transport which states there is “No agreed way of measuring DfT performance, which again highlights absence of a transport strategy……More comprehensive information and greater transparency should be provided in DfT decision-making…..the Department for Transport business plan sits in a strategic vacuum.”

As reported in the Sunday Telegraph minutes from the HS2 Ltd board meetings in January and February state that the expected approval for the release of funds had not happened, stating; “HS2 Ltd had understood from previous discussions with the department [for transport] that all necessary approvals had been ascertained. This new information would threaten the proposed timescales for procurement, putting whole project timelines in jeopardy. The standstill period could be extended should there be any further delay in securing Treasury approval… It was agreed that a formal written representation should be made to the Secretary of State concerning the delays imposed by government decision making processes.”

Whilst Rome burns in Bressenden Place, HS2 Ltd have hit back at claims that they are hiring “Enough spin doctors staff to fill a railway carriage”, claiming in David Camerons local paper the Witney Gazette that: “There is a small communications team but it is wholly wrong to suggest that we have set up a large division of PR experts.”, despite the fact the current job advert on their own website shows the £97,398+benefits Head of Public Affairs will lead a team of 60 staff. In 2009 David Cameron slated the fact that quanqos such as HS2 Ltd had their own having their own communications officers and press departments.

Penny Gaines, the chairman of Stop HS2, said:

“We have consistently said that there is no business, economic or environmental case for HS2. Research has suggested that HS2 would cost each family in this country well over £1,000. We know that the Government’s own Major Projects Authority has grave doubts about the scheme. We have long suspected that the Treasury would oppose HS2 because there is simply no money for such a scheme, and that’s what this shows.”

“Like a runaway train, the board of HS2 Ltd appear to hope that if they rush ahead fast enough, no-one will be able to stop them.  But it is time for George Osborne to derail this extravagant and unnecessary project.”

Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign coordinator said;

“It is great news that the Treasury is starting to put the brakes on HS2, because someone has to. The Transport Select Committee report shows that the Department for Transport are a law unto themselves, with not the slightest care about wasting public money. In a previous report, the TSC asked the DfT to produce a strategy saying what they aim to achieve when they spend public money, but they refused and said they have a ‘business plan’, which the TSC say sits in a strategic vacuum. They also asked that more comprehensive information and greater transparency should be provided in the decision-making process, which again has not happened to their satisfaction. Their findings have to put more pressure on the Treasury to take action. George Osbourne also has to look at the backlash over the A556 plans in his constituency and realise it’ll be a lot worse when the HS2 Y-Route goes through it.”

“What is the point of having bodies like the Transport Select Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the Major Projects Authority if quangos like HS2 Ltd can just get away with ignoring the scrutiny they have been established to provide? The only string on the bow for HS2 Ltd seems to be trying to spin their way out of this. HS2 Ltd have said “There is a small communications team but it is wholly wrong to suggest that we have set up a large division of PR experts.”, while their own job advert says the £97k Head of PR will have a team of 60 working under them! If that isn’t spin I don’t know what is. In opposition David Cameron said he was going to crack down on this sort of practice, but like a typical politician is doing the exact opposite of what he promised before he got elected.”

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