HS2 chairman slammed for not finding ‘single bean’ of savings

Sir David Higgins
Sir David Higgins

High speed rail campaigners have criticised a report by HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins for not finding a ‘single bean’ in cost savings.

Sir David’s report, published today, calls for the northern section of the line to be built faster and Crewe to be added as a station, while he questionned the sense in connecting HS2 to the Channel Tunnel.

He said £50 billion HS2 was ‘vital for the future of the country’ and said it could be ‘a catalyst for fundamental change’.

However, Sir David, who is being paid almost £600,000 a year, added: “Despite all these potential benefits, I am conscious of the price – financial, physical and emotional – that HS2 will demand from the country, from communities and from individuals.

“That is why I have rejected any thought that the project should cut back on planned mitigation measures, whether noise or environmental. Those will continue. It is also why I support the Government’s proposed approach to property compensation. We need to be clear about the impact of the project, as well as its benefits, and address the consequences of that impact, as we are.”

In November, Prime Minister David Cameron called on Sir David to use ‘his penetrating eye’ to cut costs and deliver it ‘substantially’ under budget. But in his report he says it would be ‘irresponsible’ to reduce the amount the government has put aside for the scheme.

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “David Higgins has spent three months looking for cost savings for HS2 and he hasn’t found a single bean. Any pretense that the costs of HS2 are under control are a fraudulent attempt to con the public.

“In fact all he has done is take off the link to Europe but the costs have stayed same.

“We know that these costs will continue to escalate. The only answer is to cancel the project and go back to the drawing board right now.”

Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 added: “Every attempt to find cost savings in HS2 has either resulted in upping the budget for the project, or dropping major parts of the project.

“Higgins wants to speed HS2 through Parliament. But even councils who support HS2 want to petition to the Parliamentary committees because they see real practical problems in HS2’s plans. For the last four years HS2 Ltd been ignoring individuals and communities that are directly affected on the grounds they will get heard in Parliament by the Hybrid Bill committees of MPs and Lords.

“Cross party agreement can’t make this part of the process faster, or cheaper, trying to race it through will just paper over the immense cracks in the scheme.

“HS2 should be cancelled immediately, so the country can look at the real transport needs of the country.”

In his report Sir David says of the scheme’s cost: “Additional time spent debating the legislation will translate into extra uncertainty about the construction

timescale – and therefore about its cost.

“That is why, in considering the first phase, I consider that it would be irresponsible to reduce the substantial contingency included.

“I believe that the resulting Phase One (London to Birmingham) budget of £21.4 billion, plus £3 billion for trains, is enough to deliver Phase One.

“Inevitably, given the early stage of the project and the degree of uncertainty around the legislative process, there is an element of judgement involved in making that assessment and some variance on quanta and allocation according to the original figures.

“Overall, however, I am confident that the budget can be made to work – and the basis for that calculation is set out in the attached set of slides.

“The Government has set aside a further £21.2 billion for the second phase of the project and that, plus the money to be allocated as part of Network Rail’s two control periods running from 2019 to 2029, should form the basis for a fully integrated plan as outlined above.”


Sir David Higgin’s full report