Lords say HS2 costs 'appear out of control' in damning new report
The costs for the controversial HS2 train line “appear to be out of control” according to a damning new report by peers.
The Lords Economic Affairs Committee (LEAC) argued the planned high speed rail link between London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds required a “major rethink”.
It added that the north of the country was being “short changed” and lamented the state of rail connections between northern cities which it said should be first in the queue for funding.
The verdict is a major blow for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who has insisted the major infrastructure project will stick within its latest expected budget.
Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey piled in to say the "out of date and unpopular vanity project" should be scrapped altoghether.
Ministers originally insisted the 360km-an-hour rail line would cost the taxpayer £30bn, but after delays and repeated recalculations the expected costs now stand at an eye-watering £56bn.
The LEAC issued a report four years ago arguing rail links in the north should take priority over HS2 and that the train could save money by running more slowly, but the Government pressed ahead with its plans.
In a new report,the committee raised alarm that the project would run out of cash before the northern sections get built - after ex-HS2 chair Sir Terry Morgan said “nobody knows” what the final costs will be.
“The costs of HS2 do not appear to be under control,” said committee chair Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.
“If costs overrun on the first phase of the project, there could be insufficient funding for the rest of the new railway.
“The northern sections of HS2 must not be sacrificed to make up for overspending on the railway’s southern sections.”
He added: “The north is being short-changed by the Government’s present plans, especially as construction on HS2 is starting in the south. Any overcrowding relief from HS2 will mainly benefit London commuters.”
The committee said the Department for Transport had been unable to adequately assess its large infrastructure projects - accusing ministers of having “distorted decision-making on the HS2 project in favour of speed”.
It argued there was too much emphasis on travellers shaving minutes off of their journeys when the main justification for the project was to increase capacity on the rail network.
And it called for a proposed revamp of the northern rail network to be better coordinated with HS2, and said spending on the line must be ring-fenced.
McVEY PILES IN
Ms McVey - who has announced she will stand for the Conservative leadership when Theresa May steps down - seized on the chance to say HS2 "must be scrapped".
She argued: "It is an out of date and unpopular vanity project, a huge waste of taxpayers’ money, will destroy huge swaths of our countryside and would be a slap in the face for both our northern cities and the taxpayer.”