HS2 is ‘badly off course’ and public trust is being ‘undermined’, warn MPs
PUBLISHED: 11:53 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:10 19 May 2020
HS2 bosses have been “blindsided by contact with reality” with the project “badly off course”, according to MPs.
In a report published by Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), fresh concerns have been raised by MPs over both the transparency and handling of the project.
The government has now been urged to give “regular, accurate and open updates” on problems faced by the project, which will run to and from a new terminus at Euston station.
Among the report’s conclusions, the committee said that the Department for Transport (DfT) and HS2 Ltd’s lack of transparency had “undermined public confidence in the programme”.
On May 19, a small demonstration organised by HS2 Rebellion was held outside Euston Station to rally against the major rail project.
HS2 will also see a new station built at Old Oak Common in west London.
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The committee report stated that the appearance of DfT Permanent Secretary Bernadette Kelly and HS2 Ltd executives, CEO Mark Thurston and chief financial officer Michael Bradley, before the committee in March “raised questions about the previous picture provided by the witnesses of the project’s health”.
“The Department and HS2 Ltd defended their actions, stating that there were commercial sensitivities, and that options were still being pursued to remedy the situation.”
Committee chair, Labour MP Meg Hillier, accused the government of having made a “wealth of mistakes” over major transport infrastructure.
She said: “There is no excuse for hiding the nature and extent of the problems the project was facing from Parliament and the taxpayer.
“The Department and HS2 appear to have been blindsided by contact with reality - when Phase One started moving through Parliament, the predicted costs of necessary commitments to the communities affected have exploded from £245 million to £1.2 billion.
Responding to the report, a DfT spokesperson said: “The current Secretary of State has been clear that this project must go forward with a new approach to Parliamentary reporting, with clear transparency, strengthened accountability to ministers, and tight control of costs.
“We have comprehensively reset the HS2 programme, introducing a revised budget and funding regime, with significant reforms to ensure the project is delivered in a more disciplined and transparent manner.”
To read the full feport click here.
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