'Affordability' of HS2 Phase 2 questioned by Government body
Anti-HS2 campaigners have labelled recently released papers which question the affordability of the scheme as 'absolutely damning' after fighting years for their release.
HS2 Ltd have this week released a number of reports from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority covering the period of September 2013 to September 2015 into the scheme after Stop HS2 campaigners battled for their publication.
They reveal the Government body, which is part of the Cabinet Office, raised concerns over getting the project completed to budget.
The documents questions whether Phase 2a, from the West Midlands to Crewe cutting up 45 miles of Staffordshire land, is 'affordable' and calls for its prioritisation to be 'revisited' should the costs spiral beyond budgets.
The papers state: "The concerns and interests of a wide range of stakeholders affected by Phase 2a are well understood and effective processes are in place to monitor and manage them.
"However, there are some significant risks. Most significant at this stage is affordability within the capped budget of £50.1bn (Q2 2011 ECs) for HS2 as a whole. A major efficiency programme is under way to identify opportunities to design and build to cost."
They add: "In general terms overall schedule risk, leading to cost growth, needs to be monitored and managed for Phase 2a to be affordable. Should it transpire that Phase 2 as a whole is not affordable the prioritisation of Phase 2a should be revisited."
The official cost of HS2 has been raised to £55.6billion with bosses increasing the previous figure of £50.1billion in 2011 due to 'inflation'.
The release of the reports, which are now available to view on the Government's website, comes after a lengthy legal fight between the Government and campaigners.
Whilst most of the documents are available to read certain areas have been blacked out.
Joe Rukin, campaign manager at Stop HS2 said: “We have been fighting for four years to get some of this information released, and now the Government have been ordered to publish, it is absolutely damning.
"We can see there are massive concerns about the affordability of HS2, but they keep redacting the actual costs they are working to, and it is absolutely clear that the project is running about two years late whilst claiming it is 'on time and on budget'.
"There are a whole host of other problems, but HS2 Ltd will now claim that these are old reports and everything has now been sorted out, but that is what they always say, and if that is the case why is so much of these reports redacted?
"We will continue to fight for the publication of subsequent reports, including the major review by Sir Jeremy Heywood.”
“These documents make it absolutely clear that there are massive concerns which remain unaddressed, because we keep seeing the same problems being raised every year.
"Government treat HS2 as the golden child that can do no wrong, which is why these issues that guarantee the project will be an unmitigated disaster are left unchecked.
"It is long past time for ministers to get a grip and put this white elephant out of its’ misery.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “HS2 will become the backbone of our national rail network – creating more seats for passengers, supporting growth and regeneration and helping us build an economy that works for all.
“We are keeping a tough grip on costs and we are determined to deliver on time and on budget.”