Awards, contracts & appointments

13.05.19

First leg of HS2 ‘passing the point of no return’ due to amount of money already invested, says NAO head

HS2 is on the “verge of passing the point of no return” and the amount of money spent would make scrapping the flagship project “very difficult,” the head of the government spending watchdog has said.

Sir Amyas Morse has warned that the country would need to be in “a lot of economic trouble” to pull the plug on the £56bn project, and has cost so much the London to Birmingham section should at least be finished.

Morse, the out-going head of the National Audit Office, told BBC Radio Four’s the Westminster Hour that the first phase of HS2 would have to be completed due to the cost and work already incurred.

“There is a point where there's not much point thinking you can go back.

“It might be that we still haven’t quite crossed the Rubicon on it, but pretty soon we'll have sunk so much in buying land, building track and so forth, that it would be very difficult not to at least go to Birmingham.”

The project has been under heavy pressure and is in danger of exceeding its budget with land acquisition costs spiralling five times higher than first projected, leading to questions over its value for money.

The government insists that HS2 will be delivered in its entirety, although Sir Terry Morgan, the former chairman of HS2 and Crossrail until he stepped down, has said “nobody knows” what the final cost of HS2 will be.

Its chief executive also warned in January that HS2 could be forced to run with fewer trains and at slower speeds in order to keep the rail project within its budget, and it has also come under fire due to legal action over contracts and faced heavy protests from campaigners.

Some MPs have been highly critical of the project, which is due to be completed by 2033, with several Conservative leadership candidates voicing their misgivings.

Morse said: “There really needs to be some sense of prioritisation about what can be accommodated alongside Brexit.

“We need to be realistic and say, what are the things that really matter to the country, that must be done?”

What does the future look like for HS2? Get your answers from Mark Thurston, Chief Executive, HS2 Ltd & Lorna Pimlott Director of Sponsorship & Policy, Phase 2, HS2 Ltd at TransCityRail Midland on the 18th July, Click here to find out more. >>

Image credit - Ben BirchallPA ArchivePA Images

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