HS2

25.06.20

HS2 Minister responds to Transport Select Committee

Following a letter from the Transport Select Committee back in May, Andrew Stephenson, HS2 Minister yesterday (June 24th) responded and published his letter of response.

Mr. Stephenson began his later by discussing the challenge of transparency. He confirmed that HS2’s six monthly reports from the department for transport will update Parliament on the programme delivery for all Phases, including items such as cost, schedule and risks. The data including in the publication will be provided by HS2 Ltd.

He detailed: “The reports will be published twice a year, starting this Autumn for the period April to September, with the second in Spring 2021, to mirror the financial year. I would also like to offer a discussion with you on how those reports could be produced in a way which would be most helpful to your Committee. Alongside this, the Permanent Secretary Bernadette Kelly has offered a discussion with the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.”

Further on he discussed the way the projected is being overseen. He said that new changes were being put in place to encourage greater discipline oversight of the project. A central part of this is the appointment of new Non-Executive Directors to offer additional leadership, oversight and scrutiny of the project.

The Minister also stated: “As dedicated HS2 Minister, I am also taking an active role in shaping the performance regime to drive the Company’s behaviours. We have introduced a Ministerial Taskforce to increase oversight and monitor performance, and are finalising a new suite of key performance indicators with the Company which will be reported on in the Annual Report and Accounts and via the new parliamentary reporting process.”

Mr. Stephenson also said details regarding Phase 2b are still under development, but the goal will be to ensure this is given the correct level of focus and leadership to ensure it is delivered successfully. Allowing the Company to focus on the delivery Phase One and Phase 2a.

He also explained with regards to speed and frequency of HS2 services: “We maintain that high frequency of operation is needed to serve as many destinations as possible and therefore spread the benefits of HS2 across the widest possible area.

“Reducing the frequency of trains would inevitably mean reducing the number of destinations served, cutting off those places from the great economic opportunities that high speed rail brings. Maximising the frequency of trains increases the benefits gained from the investment and therefore improves the value for money of the project.”

Euston station was also questioned by the Transport Committee and Mr. Stephenson said that the Department has commissioned a study looking into the efficiency of the future station as a whole.

The Committee also raised concerns about minimising the loss of biodiversity in which the HS2 Minister responded: “I can confirm there are 192 sites or areas where some form of vegetation clearance is currently scheduled, and will coincide with the 2020 bird nesting season.

“I would also like to add that HS2 Ltd and its contractors are required to follow all relevant legislation for nesting birds. The HS2 Act does not disapply this legislation and all contractors working on HS2 must comply with it. All birds, their nests and eggs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and all HS2 vegetation clearance (and other works) include measures to prevent any breach of the law.”

He closed his letter of response by stating the Department for Transport will work alongside the Committee to provide further detail on the areas covered in the letter as and when there are developments as this project progresses.

Image: HS2 Ltd 

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