£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in favour of the project – with the Department of Transport accused of basing  projections on “fragile numbers, out of date data and assumptions that do not reflect real life”.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It said evidence used to show the benefits to commuters was so out of date that it failed to recognise business travellers were able to work on trains using laptops and other mobile devices.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.

Sport
footballLIVE: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
News
newsNew images splice vintage WWII photos with modern-day setting
Arts and Entertainment
The star dances on a balcony in the video
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines