- At a conference project chief Mark Thurston indicated doubts over the budget
- A budget of £24.3bn has been set – with taxpayers footing the bill.
- Thurston said his team needs to get ‘better understanding of what it costs’
The boss of HS2 has fuelled concerns that it will blow its £56billion budget after admitting his team needs to get a better grip on costs.
The first phase of Britain’s most expensive infrastructure project will build a rail line between London and Birmingham.
A budget of £24.3billion has been set – with taxpayers footing the bill.
The boss of HS2 has fuelled concerns that it will blow its £56billion budget after admitting his team needs to get a better grip on costs
At a conference in London, the project chief executive Mark Thurston indicated doubts remain over the budget. He said: ‘The thing we can do through phase one is get a much better understanding of what it actually costs and what the demand will be, so we can start building into the model for phase two; it’s very much a question mark for us, it’s a good challenge.’
Phase 2B will link Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, while Phase 2A will link Manchester and Crewe. Thurston said HS2 will look at attracting private investment.
Lord Berkeley, the Labour peer and critic of HS2, urged a pause in the scheme to stop it going massively over budget.
Last summer rail expert Michael Byng warned the first phase could cost £51.25bn – and that the entire scheme could top £100bn. This was vigorously rejected by transport secretary Chris Grayling.
At a conference in London, HS2’s project chief executive Mark Thurston indicated doubts remain over the budget
The Government spending watchdog the National Audit Office has warned the budget and timetable for HS2 are ‘unrealistic’, a concern that has been echoed by the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
But even while insisting HS2 will stick to its budget, Thurston left room for doubt.
Speaking at the Transport Times’ Infrastructure summit, he said: ‘We are confident that we will build it within budget, we wouldn’t say anything else in a public forum.’
Last night HS2 said Mr Thurston’s comments were taken out of context. It said the uncertainty over costs he referred to relates to particular aspects of phase one such as the power supply, rather than the entire project.
But the comments have been seized on by critics of HS2.
Chris Matthewman, chair of the Bramley HS2 Action Group, said: ‘Based on these statements, clearly HS2 have no idea how much phase one is going to actually cost and have no concrete handle on the demand, which is scandalous.
‘Given that HS2 Ltd has no clue on costings for the ground works required… it is hard to imagine why any private financier would contemplate funding it.’
He added: ‘Is it right that the DfT should proceed to spend in excess of £56bn on HS2 on a wing and a prayer in the hope that everything might turn out to be OK?’
The first phase is due to be completed by 2026 with the entire project to be completed by 2033, says the Government.
HS2 said: ‘We are well aware of our budget and will remain within it as we work to deliver value for the taxpayer.’
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