A DAMNING report has cast doubts on the business case for HS2 and the Governments plans for to bring the bill before Parliament as 'unrealistic'.
The influential Committee of Public Accounts has today released its findings into the project and its report will not make pleasant reading for David Cameron.
It doubts the timescale the Government has set to get royal ascent for the bill before the next general election in 2015,a and also says that there is not yet a good enough business case being put forward to justify its £50bn price tag.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, chairman of the committee, today said: “The Department for Transport has yet to present a convincing strategic case for High Speed 2.
“It has not yet demonstrated that this is the best way to spend £50 billion on rail investment in these constrained times, and that the improved connectivity will promote growth in the regions rather than sucking even more activity into London.
“The pattern so far has been for costs to spiral - from more than £16 billion to £21 billion plus for phase one – and the estimated benefits to dwindle.
“The Department has been making huge spending decisions on the basis of fragile numbers, out-of-data data and assumptions which do not reflect real life, such as assuming business travellers do not work on trains using modern technology.
“As usual with NAO reports, the Department had agreed the facts in the report as accurate before publication. However, as soon as the report was published, the media reported unnamed departmental sources as claiming that it contained errors and was based on out-of date analysis. These claims were quite unfounded.
“The Department has ambitious and, in our view, unrealistic, plans for passing the Bill for High Speed 2. The timetable is much tighter than for either High Speed 1 or Crossrail, despite the fact High Speed 2 is a much larger programme.
“In my Committee’s experience, not allowing enough time for preparation undermines projects from the start. A rushed approach contributed to the failure of the InterCity West Coast franchise award.
“The Department has increased its High Speed rail team, but getting the right mix of skills is challenging and the Department lacks the commercial skills necessary to protect taxpayers’ interest on a programme of this size.”