More than £300 million has already been spent on the controversial HS2 rail link in less than three years, new figures have revealed.
Expenditure has ranged from staff wages and public relations to a promotional video and iPad covers for staff.
The spending was revealed by the TaxPayers’ Alliance which analysed the accounts of HS2 Limited, the taxpayer-funded company set up to develop the line.
If MPs back the controversial project work could start in 2017 with the line between London and Lichfield being completed by 2026. The scheme will cut a 45-mile swathe through Staffordshire.
Staffordshire County Council, Stafford Borough Council and Lichfield District Council are opposing the £50 billion project while Wolverhampton and Birmingham city councils are backing the high speed line.
In total, HS2 Ltd paid £302 million to outside businesses and other organisations between January 2011 and October 2013.
While £1.2 million was spent on outside public relations and parliamentary lobbying companies and £1.4 million was paid to a branding company for ‘consultation event management’ and £128,000 spent on a promotional video.
According to the figures, five companies have been paid £192 million between them by HS2 Ltd, including £68.6 million to Arup, the engineering and design consultancy, and £30.8 million to Atkins, another engineering consultancy. KPMG, the management consultancy, which produced a report predicting HS2 will benefit the British economy by £15 billion a year, has been paid £2.3 million by HS2 Ltd.
Jonathan Isaby, the chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s clear that bureaucrats in charge of delivering HS2 have embarked on a wasteful spending binge at taxpayers’ expense.”
Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, said: “We always knew that the amount of taxpayers’ money being wasted on HS2 is staggering, but to see it thrown away so blatantly without the project having the go-ahead is a complete disgrace.”
Spokesman Ben Ruse said: “HS2 Ltd remains fastidious in its determination to bear down on costs. HS2 will be delivered on budget and on time. We delivered well within our budget for 2012-2013 and we fully expect to do the same within the current financial year.”