WCML debate and the need to review case for HS2

MPs ask that HS2 also gets reviewed, in light of the major problems with the modelling used for  West Coast Main Line franchise.

From the House of Commons debate on the West Coast Main Line franchise:

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab):May I express my sympathy for the new Secretary of State’s having to deal with this mess? However, in view of the fact that the Department could not come up with figures that would be valid 10 years hence, how can he believe that the same Department, the same officials and the same advisers can come up with accurate predictions on passenger levels, and on inflation generally, in relation to High Speed 2, which does not exist and for which there is no evidence to draw on? I think he needs to look at that matter again. I will not say that he needs to go back to the drawing board; in the case of HS2, it is more a matter of going back to the ouija board.

Mr McLoughlin: I am interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman says. A number of points have been raised since I made the announcement. The HS2 business case has undergone an extensive quality assurance process, and we are confident that it is accurate. The August 2012 update on the economic case was supported by a 400-person day of independent quality assurance, and HS2 Ltd has appointed independent auditors to undertake a line-by-line check of the analysis being prepared for the deposit of the hybrid Bill. This is all in addition to the existing quality assurance arrangements. I am glad to say that there was a commitment to these proposals in the right hon. Gentleman’s party manifesto to the country as well as in our own.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): My right hon. Friend has come into the Department for Transport like a breath of fresh air. However, like the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), he must know that the failure of the west coast main line franchise process has really shaken people’s faith in the facts and figures that are being used by the Department. Notwithstanding the answer that he gave to the right hon. Gentleman, while he is in the mood for ordering investigations, will he now order a full review of the facts and figures that were used to justify HS2, in order to prevent the Department from making a serious mistake?

Mr McLoughlin: As I do not want to incur your wrath, Mr Speaker, perhaps I should refer my right hon. Friend to the answer that I gave to the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) a few moments ago. I also addressed this issue in one of my first major speeches, in which I outlined the importance of this particular piece of infrastructure to the United Kingdom.

Mr Speaker: I am always very interested to hear what the Secretary of State has to say on this subject, as he will readily appreciate….

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): I want HS2 to happen, because it would be good for Birmingham, but I also want to ensure that it is based on accurate and reliable figures. Will the Secretary of State ensure that his review will identify any errors and miscalculations, and whether or not they relate to HS2, and will he ensure that this is a sound calculation?

Mr McLoughlin: I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s support for HS2. As I said a few moments ago, that is a separate process and a lot of work is going into the preparation for the HS2 Bill that will come before the House. There will be a lot of opportunities to debate that over the coming months.

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