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11.05.17

McNaughton hits back at reports of HS2 going over budget

HS2’s technical director has stated that despite recent trouble with procurement and reports of mounting costs, the opening date of the project and its budget have not changed from original estimates.

Talking at Railtex 2017, Professor Andrew McNaughton hit back at recent reports that costs for the project were spiralling out of control, including Lord Berkeley who has publicly stated that the budget of the project is likely to far exceed what was originally anticipated.

Back in April, the Peer called for a full review of HS2 after a report predicted that costs for Phase 1 alone were rocketing to £48bn – leaving no remaining funds in the budget for the completion of Phases 2a and 2b.

And HS2 has also already hit a number of obstacles in its procurement that threatened to push the project’s opening date back, most notably as CH2M was forced to withdraw their interest in the civils contract for Phase 2b, opening the door for competing bidder Bechtel to take on the contract.

Though Prof McNaughton was tight-lipped due to restrictions placed on him by purdah, he was quick to deny claims that the project was running over budget.  

“The headline opening time has not changed, and is not affected by the unexpected general election,” McNaughton said during his keynote speech. “2033 is the finish date for the whole lot, and the overall cost has not changed either.”

He also had choice words for journalists reporting that the project was in danger of running massively over budget.

“In my mind you should never trust journalists,” he said. “Current costs are still at £55bn. It can change little by little, but that’s just taking inflation into account.

“Those of you in the supply sector know we talk about building to cost as well as building to time and quality. And quality is not an available area to save money, and neither is time or cost.

“It’s too easy to go ‘we’ll fix that and the rest of it goes and be what it will be’.  It should not be like that.”

Prof McNaughton also explained how HS2 had done plenty of background research into other large-scale projects, and had learnt lessons that will help HS2 to be delivered to schedule.

“We looked at recent NAO reports into a lot of railway projects, and we do not have a sense of schadenfreude, we learnt our damn lesson,” he stated. “We will be designing to cost, to time and to quality – there is no alternative,” before jokingly concluding: “And no I never did have a picture of a certain lady on my wall.”

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Comments

Tony Berkeley   12/05/2017 at 17:57

McNaughton blames journalists for correctly reporting my statements; I and my colleague Michael Byng stand by them. Over a 12 month period we attending upwards of 20 meetings, sharing our costs with HS2 and Andrew McNaughton, before giving evidence to the Lords Select Committee on the costs. Neither HS2 nor he offered any dissenting methodologies nor evidence or challenged us at the Hearing, Since HS2 appeared to challenge a range of issues from many petitioners often for no better reason that HS2 had not thought of it, I think the lack of challenge on costs is very significant. I repeat - if he does not agree with our costs and methodology, where is his alternative evidence beyond repeating 'I am right because I say I am right'?

Chrism   12/05/2017 at 21:52

You may see significance, but perhaps HS2 Ltd could see no point in continuing to discuss the issue with you as they had absolutely nothing to gain from doing so? Perhaps they were mindful of the need not to waste the taxpayer's hard-earned money by extending the select committee sessions? After all Royal Assent was going to be late enough anyway. Now next month we should (hopefully) see the major construction contracts awarded for phase 1. HS2 Ltd has published a range of estimated values for those contracts and they are freely available within the public domain. If you and Mr Byng are correct in your calculations then Professor McNaughton will shortly have to explain how his organisation made such an awful mess of the cost estimates. However if it turns out that the successful bidders have submitted bids that are within the expected cost envelope your claims are going to look like hyperbole. I trust you will then be willing to admit you got it badly wrong?

David Briggs   13/05/2017 at 08:38

Professor McNaughton is simply wrong when he suggests that HS2 budgets are the same as in the beginning. Even Sir David Higgins is still quoting October 2014 costs to the public via the HS2 Helpdesk, and these are 25% higher (at £42 Billion) than at the start. Add to this the current budget 'overrun' and we are looking at around £63 Billion which is around 50% more than the original budget. And don't even talk about the capital finance costs (the cost of borrowing the money) that nobody talks about.

Stratfan   13/05/2017 at 10:27

Why won't hs2 show the phase 1 budget breakdown?

Peter Jones   13/05/2017 at 13:08

“Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.” So Said JK Galbraith. Professor Mc Naughton however, comfortably declines to justify his statement with any proof whatsoever.

Jomar   13/05/2017 at 23:23

Slightly paraphrased McNaughton quotes with comments AM. Trains could be running within 15 years at a top speed of 250 mph. There could be no tunnels and few curves. Aerodynamic forces would increase tunnel costs tenfold. --- HS2 had 20km of tunnel in 2009; now 50km. Most added to reduce costs or solve unforeseen problems. AM 12,000 HP trains would be able to climb 3.5% gradients. --- At no more than 170kph. AM. Many existing stations would be unsuitable for 400m trains. A London site is proving something of a challenge. --- There are hardly any stations that have even one 400m platform. Euston station is still proving an expensive challenge. AM. The train control system would be designed to allow headways of 2 minutes, giving a theoretical capacity of 30 tph. A maximum of 18 is envisaged. Nobody runs 18tph because they never set out to. You couldn’t do 18tph if you just had points at stations. You don’t turn off a motorway at 20mph, you turn off at speed and then slow down. HS2 has acceleration & deceleration lanes. It's down to the speed of the points and operational stuff to demonstrate you could run 18tph. At Birmingham Interchange, 14km acceleration lines would enable trains to reach high speed before joining the main line. How do you accommodate 18 tph on a line; that’s a bit interesting, and not that difficult. --- Really. The acceleration lines at Birmingham Interchange are

John Burns   18/05/2017 at 17:57

Philip Hammond got cost of HS2 wrong by £20bn in a radio interview with John Humphries. It will overrun and he admitted that, as if we don't know this sort of thing.

Chrism   02/08/2017 at 22:05

I wonder, does Tony Berkeley  still stand by his statements about HS2 phase 1 costing £54 billion? The signing of the seven construction contracts worth 'only' £6.6 billion yesterday expose that statement as ridiculous hyperbole with no relation to reality!

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