Latest Rail News

24.01.20

HS2 progress report released

Today (Jan 24) the latest update on the rail project High Speed Two was released by the National Audit Office.

The report says The Department for Transport, HS2 Ltd and government have widely miscalculated the task, leading to ambitious estimates being set for delivery dates and set budgets.  

By not openly seeing the programme’s risks from the beginning, the Department and HS2 Ltd have not efficiently managed the risks to value for money. If these risks had been recognised and managed earlier in the project, then the significant activity in a pressured environment over the past year trying to understand and contain cost increases may not have necessary.

The report also states there are lessons to be learned from the experience of High Speed Two for other major infrastructure programmes.

Whilst the estimated cost and schedule for Phase One are now clearer, the obstacle is getting Phase One underway and monitoring and managing the programme as construction begins.

Phase Two is still within early development with numerous important decisions still to be made before HS2 Ltd and the Department can improve cost and schedule estimates.

The completion of HS2 will require focus and support from the Department of Transport and across government to make sure the programme is re-established on a good basis, balancing cost, time and benefits, and delivered in a way that achieves long-term value for money.

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Steve Hollis, chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s HS2 Growth Strategy responded to the report:

“We welcome today’s report from the National Audit Office (NAO) on HS2, as we gear up for the green light from government to get on and deliver the most important investment in the UK’s infrastructure for a century.

“The report provides forensic analysis on the HS2 programme and makes clear recommendations to the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd, on how they can ensure public trust, as the programme develops. It highlights how the complexity and risk of the largest infrastructure project in Europe, were underestimated by the Department for Transport (DfT), HS2 Ltd and wider government.

“As we move to the next phase of construction for the new high speed network, it is essential that those in charge take heed of the advice in this report, and that of the forthcoming Oakervee Review, which leaks suggest provides a strong recommendation to the government to proceed with HS2 and advice how to ensure the project delivers exactly what the country needs.

“Truly transformative infrastructure takes decades to deliver but the benefits last centuries. HS2 is much more than a railway, it is an agent of change. HS2 provides the connectivity and the capacity that the county needs to revolutionise the rail network; it creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs providing careers and security for workers today, and future generations; and it underpins the confidence that will lead to more than a trillion pounds of investment the UK.”

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “At the end of the day, this is a positive and practical report which provides yet more reasons to push on with this vital infrastructure project. Our union completely agrees with the National Audit Office’s call for transparency from the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd to ensure the success of this project going forwards.

“We must end the paralysis and seize the ambition of HS2 which will cut our carbon emissions, massively upgrade our rail infrastructure, and bring investment to the Midlands and North of England. And it must be built through to Scotland for its full ambition to be realised.

“I call on the government to stop dithering and give our industry the certainty it needs by making it crystal clear that HS2 will go ahead at least as far as Leeds and Manchester. Thousands upon thousands of jobs and the economic regeneration of the North are dependent on this.”

Robert Nisbet, Director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “It’s time to inject some realism into the debate about HS2. There are no shovel ready alternatives.

“To cancel it would be to worsen punctuality and overcrowding on the railway for years to come, throttling future economic growth and damaging the environment by encouraging car travel. By acting like a road by-pass, HS2 will shift long-distance trains onto a separate new line and enable the more frequent, punctual commuter services on existing tracks that people are already crying out for.”

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