HS2 ‘highly likely’ to overspend by up to 60%

26 July 2018

An internal report has warned the $56bn HS2 high speed rail project is unachievable and may need rescoping”.

The leaked document, commissioned by the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), said the project was “highly likely to significantly overspend” by 20-60%, the Financial Times reported.

At the top end this could put the final cost of the rail link at nearly £90bn.

The report, produced in December 2016, also criticised HS2 Ltd, the company set up to deliver the project, as falling “well short of best practice” and said the project’s executive team lacked cohesion.

It said the project would be “classified as ‘failed’ by any internationally recognised definition”.

An HS2 spokesperson told SM the organisation “does not recognise or agree with either [the report’s] analysis or the figures it contains”.

This is not the first time the cost or timetable for HS2 has been called into question. A National Audit Office report in 2016 said the project’s timetable was “unrealistic” and “too ambitious”. Separately the TaxPayers' Alliance, a think tank, said it estimated the eventual cost of the project could run to £88bn.

HS2, a planned high speed line between London and the North of England, is Europe’s largest infrastructure project and a key part of the government’s industrial strategy. The shortlist of companies bidding for the main development contractors for the first stage of the line, to Birmingham, was recently released.

The HS2 spokesperson said: “[IPA] recently described the HS2 programme as ‘on target to be completed on time and on budget’. HS2 Ltd’s processes and structure have continued to mature, something underwritten by our Annual Report and Accounts.”

They added that the executive team has been strengthened by the appointment of a new chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the transport secretary had not seen the document and it represented “an individual’s personal view”. ​They added: “We are keeping a tough grip on costs and HS2 is on time and on budget at £55.7bn.”

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