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19.05.20

DfT responds to the Public Accounts Committee report

On Sunday (May 17th) the Public Accounts Committee published a report, stating that the High Speed 2 rail project has gone “badly off course” and demanded that Government gives regular, accurate and open updates on the problems the project is facing and progress on evolving the appropriate skills and capabilities.

The report stated that: “The Department and HS2 Ltd were aware of the scale of the project’s cost and schedule overruns as early as October 2018. In March 2019, HS2 Ltd formally advised the Department that it would not be able to deliver Phase One of the programme on time or within the available funding. However, the Permanent Secretary did not make this clear when she appeared before the previous Committee in October 2018 and May 2019, even when asked specific questions about the programme’s delivery timeline and budget.”

The report also said that: “A lack of capability continues to be an issue: by its own recent assessment HS2 Ltd still has gaps in key areas such as risk management and assurance, project management and project control.”

The Committee also said within the report that they are not, “…convinced that the Department is learning from problems across its major infrastructure projects to make sufficient and meaningful changes to its management of infrastructure programmes. In its recommendations to Government, the Committee is seeking new, formal assurances that DfT and HS2 Ltd have the capability to manage the programme and its supply chain, into construction and through to completion.”

In response to the report the Department for Transport said that: “The current Secretary of State has been clear that this project must go forward with a new approach to Parliamentary reporting, with clear transparency, strengthened accountability to Ministers, and tight control of costs.

“We have comprehensively reset the HS2 programme, introducing a revised budget and funding regime, with significant reforms to ensure the project is delivered in a more disciplined and transparent manner.

“This includes appointing the first dedicated HS2 Minister, bi-annual updates to Parliament and establishing a monthly Ministerial Task Force, chaired by the Secretary of State, to ensure the project has a rigorous scrutiny like the 2012 Olympics.”

“The Permanent Secretary acknowledged in May 2019 that there were cost pressures that the Department and HS2 Ltd were working to address in line with government policy at the time. Those discussions were active and commercially confidential.”

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