Fares, rail policy and DfT news

07.02.19

HS2 land acquisition costs could spiral five times higher than projected

The cost of acquiring land and property for Phase 1 of HS2 could be almost five times the original estimation.

Forecasts based on freedom of information requests from an anti-HS2 campaign group have revealed that the total land costs could now be around £5bn, and has already now far exceeded the original estimate from HS2 of £1.1bn.

The figures from Bramley Action Group also show that of the over 1,500 necessary payments for land and property, only 47% have been made so far, with around £3bn still needing to be paid out for the project’s acquisitions.

Michael Byng, an infrastructure consultant who worked on the costing method used by Network Rail, told LBC that HS2 only budgeted around £2.2bn for this cost, which will see the biggest land and property acquisition programme since World War II.

Asked if he believed HS2 could be delivered within its budget, he said: “On either the property budget or the total budget of £27.18bn, it's extremely unlikely. It never was likely to come into that budget, simply through the plans that HS2 posted on the DfT website.

“The disparity between the likely costs, which I believe is just under £56bn for Phase One alone and the government's funding envelope of £27.18bn, is far too great.”

In December, a whistleblowing former HS2 executive told BBC Panorama that the original estimate for land costs was “enormously wrong” and now risks breaking £5bn.

Doug Thornton said that MPs were misled by HS2 over the cost of land acquisition when they voted to approve the flagship project, adding he had “never seen anything like it.”

The NAO also criticised HS2’s acquisition of land back in September, highlighting soaring costs and slow payments with only half of advance payments to claimants being completed in the required three-month period.

HS2 said the cost of land acquisition reflects the changes to scope, land value, and parliamentary amendments, and insisted it was confident the project would be delivered within budget.

Just yesterday, HS2 revealed the winners of contracts to construct the London Euston and super-hub Old Oak Common stations, as well as designs for the interchange.

Image credit - Robert Wright

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