HS2 delivery on time and budget 'appears to be unachievable' - Government experts' rating

The prospects of HS2 being delivered on time and on budget have been given a beating by Government experts who advise on major projects.

Monday, 13th July 2020, 3:04 pm
Updated Monday, 13th July 2020, 3:08 pm

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) has rated the scheme as red, the highest risk warning available to it, for the first time since 2013.

The IPA assesses the likelihood of large schemes fulfilling their objectives on time and in budget and a red rating means the experts believe that “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable”.

Last year the Government-ordered review of the scheme, the Oakervee Review, found the final bill for the major project would likely top £106bn - more than three times the original projection.

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Artist's impression of an HS2 train on the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct. Photo: HS2 Ltd

But in February Boris Johnson pushed ahead with the scheme, despite saying HS2 Ltd, the company responsible for developing and promoting the network, had “not made the task easier”.

At that point it also received a revised budget and schedule, and the IPA report only considers a snapshot from September last year, so does not take into account what the Government dubbed a “reset” in February or the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “This report refers to the status of the HS2 project in September 2019, before it was comprehensively reset in February 2020, so does not take into account the intervening period up to the present.

“We now have stricter controls over the project including a dedicated HS2 minister, and are confident HS2 is being delivered with the strict oversight, accountability and transparency needed.”

HS2 route. Photo: PA

A spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: “The ongoing preparatory work undertaken by HS2 Ltd in the past 12 months now mean that the cost and schedule estimates for Phase One are the most robust they’ve ever been.

“HS2 is already creating thousands of jobs, apprenticeships and contracts for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) across Britain, and will play a major role in the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Richard Houghton, director of protest group HS2 Action Alliance, claimed the railway’s business case “has always been based on voodoo economics”.

He went on: “With future use of trains likely to dramatically reduce as fewer workers commute to city centre offices, it really is time for the Government to listen to its own reports, cancel HS2 and spend the funds on local transport and high-speed broadband.

“This will do far more, far quicker, to deliver on its economic promise of levelling up.”