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High Speed 2 Spring 2020 update

03 March 2020

Newly constituted Public Accounts Committee opens 2020 Parliament with inquiry into HS2 go-ahead.

The High Speed Two programme aims to construct a new high-speed, high-capacity railway between London, Leeds and Manchester, via the West Midlands. Given the final go ahead by Government last month after a period of uncertainty, planned new railways will join with the existing rail network to enable journeys to Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

It is the government’s largest infrastructure programme by value, and is an enormously complex project. The Department for Transport is the programme’s sponsor, responsible for funding and overseeing delivery of the project by HS2 Limited – an arm’s-length body of the Department.

The National Audit Office published its latest progress update on High Speed 2 in January – its fourth report on the project. The report found  that DfT, HS2 Ltd and government more widely underestimated the complexity of the programme, leading to overly optimistic budgets and delivery dates. It found that, in not openly recognising the programme’s unique challenges from the outset, the Department and HS2 Ltd have not adequately managed the risks to value for large sums of taxpayers’ money.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 4th March 2020, in its first evidence hearing of the new Parliament, the Committee will question officials from HS2 Ltd and the Department of Transport on the project’s budgetary and schedule overruns, transparency between the Department and Parliament, and how the Government intends to prevent similar overruns in the next stages of the project.

The Committee will also explore how effectively the current accountability structures for big infrastructure projects like HS2 are working, and what processes are in place to monitor the performance of the programme’s contractors.

Chair's comments

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee said:

“The PAC is back and starting as we mean to go on: looking at the spending and management of a massive Government project. HS2 has already overrun on time and budget, before it’s really begun. We’ll be asking DfT officials and HS2 Ltd how they are going to make up the lost time and money, and deliver on the many promises of High Speed 2.”

The new Chair of the Commons Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, is expected to “guest” at this PAC hearing. The Committee will announce its further future programme and priorities for this Parliament shortly. 

Witnesses

At 2.30pm

Wednesday 4 March, Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster

  • Bernadette Kelly, Permanent Secretary, Department for Transport 
  • Mark Thurston, Chief Executive Officer, HS2 Ltd 
  • Clive Maxwell, Director General, High Speed and Major Rail Projects, Department for Transport 
  • Michael Bradley, Chief Financial Officer, HS2 Ltd

Watch at https://parliamentlive.tv/Guide

Further information

Image: PA

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