£43billion HS2 'will not help regions', warns Public Accounts Committee report

 

The controversial High Speed Two (HS2) rail project has received one of its most damning assessments yet – just days after the Prime Minister called for a fightback in favour of the project – with the Department of Transport accused of basing  projections on “fragile numbers, out of date data and assumptions that do not reflect real life”.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), chaired by Margaret Hodge, criticised the cost of the project, now standing at £42.6bn, and insisted there was no evidence suggesting it would aid regional economies. Instead, it warned, its effects could be the reverse: “sucking” activity into London.

The scathing conclusions follow David Cameron’s decision to use the G20 summit to effectively relaunch the case for HS2 in wake of growing scepticism, urging doubters to  “think big” about its economic and transport benefits.

But the committee warned of  “unrealistic” plans to secure the  necessary legislation for HS2 by 2015 and said management risked a repeat of costly errors such as last year’s flawed procurement of the West Coast mainline franchise award.

It said evidence used to show the benefits to commuters was so out of date that it failed to recognise business travellers were able to work on trains using laptops and other mobile devices. And it demanded an urgent explanation of how quickly the Department would plug significant gaps in project expertise. “In my committee’s experience, not allowing enough time for preparation undermines project from the start,” Ms Hodge warned.

The committee also said that the scale of the contingency built into the budget –at £14.4bn, the equivalent of a third of the total – appeared to be “compensating for weak cost information”.

The former Chancellor Alistair Darling, recently withdrew his support for a venture that he was instrumental in starting, calling it a potential  “nightmare”. The Institute of Directors has branded it a “grand folly”. But the PAC criticism is the latest and perhaps most withering criticism of the  proposed 351-mile service from London to Birmingham and beyond.

Advocates say it will reduce journey times and expand passenger capacity at a time when more people are using the railways than at any time since the 1920s. The chairman of HS2, Douglas Oakervee, told The Independent on Sunday that it would be “catastrophic” if the project was scrapped.

The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who is expected to argue the economic case for HS2 in a major speech on Wednesday, rejected the findings, insisting the case was “absolutely clear” that without HS2, key rail routes would be “overwhelmed” by  rising passenger numbers. “The project will free up vital space on our railways, generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and deliver better connections,” he said. “HS2 is a vital part of our plan to give Britain the transport infrastructure it needs to compete.”

The first phase of the scheme between London and Birmingham is due to open in 2026 with an extension to Leeds and Manchester scheduled to operate from 2033. Calling for more detailed evidence to back the case, the MPs concluded: “The Department has yet to demonstrate that this is the best way to spend £50bn on rail investment in these constrained times.”

A Whitehall-led review is being carried out for an update next month. It will set out broader benefits for the national economy than those covered by this formal cost-benefit analysis.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on