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NAO criticisms of HS2 are ‘out of date’ - DfT

The Government has rejected the NAO report published yesterday which criticised the business case for HS2, as it publishes a draft Environmental Statement confirming major new stretches of tunnelling for the high-speed line.

The NAO identified a £3.3bn funding gap for the project, and called for the DfT to update its data underlying key assumptions for the business case of phase 1.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “It’s too early in the High Speed 2 programme to conclude on the likelihood of its achieving value for money. Our concern at this point is the lack of clarity around the Department’s objectives.

“The strategic case for the network should be better developed at this stage of the programme. It is also unclear how High Speed 2 will transform regional economies by delivering jobs and growth.”

Margaret Hodge MP labelled some of the department’s assumptions “ludicrous”.

But rail minister Simon Burns said: “They are reaching conclusions...based on a business case from 18 months ago.”

And transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “The case for HS2 is clear. Without it the key rail routes connecting London, the Midlands and northern England will be overwhelmed.

“We are not building HS2 simply because the computer says ‘yes’. We are building it because it is the right thing to do to make Britain a stronger and more prosperous place.”

Head of Rail Planning at engineering and design consultancy WSP Ian Brooker commented: “While the NAO report highlights some important underlying issues, the DfT is justified in pointing out that it is based on outdated information, and has not taken sufficient account of the very active process of updating data and forecasts and strengthening project management.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

Image c. HS2 Ltd.


John   17/05/2013 at 12:15

Well, they would say this wouldn't they!! I suspect that the NAO are on the mark as it wouldn't be the first time the DfT have seriously mis judged the finances - rmember WCML Bid Process that went very sour!!

David   17/05/2013 at 13:57

The UK was the first nation to become industrialised. Countries later into the world market are able to better invest in new infrastructure. This includes better road, rail and air transport. We have the choice to keep updating, therefore always being a few stages behind. Alternatively, we can replace and take a step forward. Both are valid choices but if we are again to compete in the modern world, we seriously need to improve our infrastructure. That includes Heathrow – we are losing our international air status to The Netherlands. It should also include making our railway network the best as well. To regain our position we really need to think new rather than upgrade. HS2 will have direct impact on many people. Not having HS2 and similar infrastructure changes will have a direct on the country – that is ALL of us.

Dr.Peter Long   17/05/2013 at 15:10

the dft should take cognisance of the nao's advice and consolidated wisdom in this matter.

Lesf   17/05/2013 at 23:28

Of course the NAO figures are out of date because whenever a responsible body points out the weakness of HS2, its proponents conjure up a revised case to muddy the water. The fact is that HS2 is not the right plan for Britain. We should not blame the PR for failing to convince the public; there is only so much you can do to defend the indefensible. 400km/h? A drunken sailor route connecting a few cities to London and ignoring many others? 10 years of construction before any of it's of any use at all? No realistic chance of reaching Scotland? Little contribution to CO2 reduction when we are committed to an 80% reduction? Come on chaps, let's start again with a sensible plan that will actually get built.

Phil Jones   19/05/2013 at 13:50

H2S is simply a means for further integrating the UK into the EU. It's an extension of the radial spoke from Brussels that is H1S. No business case can be made for it. It's plain and simple a political statement that all of the main political parties in the UK want further EU integration no matter what the cost.

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