Buckingham MP grills HS2 chief at Transport Select Committee meeting

In his regular column, Buckingham MP Greg Smith reports on the HS2 chief executive's appearance before the committee

By Reporter
Monday, 28th February 2022, 3:47 pm
Updated Monday, 28th February 2022, 4:08 pm

One of my overriding reasons for wanting to sit on the Transport Select Committee was to ensure I could be at the heart of scrutiny of HS2 and East West Rail.

I was one of the members of the committee who has insisted HS2 is regularly before the Select Committee for scrutiny, and last week we travelled to Leeds and Bradford to discuss the cancelling of the eastern leg of HS2 and the wider Integrated Rail Plan.

The chief executive of HS2, Mark Thurston, appeared before us and I focused my public questions to him on the continuing ballooning of the cost of HS2 and the total lack of understanding that has been demonstrated by HS2 Ltd - and the Department for Transport - on what the cancelling of the eastern leg does for the overall business case of HS2.

Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham

I remain of the view HS2 should be cancelled.

So far, the taxpayer has spent around £14 billion on the project.

That is a lot of money, but given the total cost is now at least £106 billion, with some well-researched estimates putting it as high as £165 billion, we just can’t afford it - especially when you remember the original project cost when HS2 was conceived under the last Labour government was £37.5 billion.

The Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) for Phase 1 is 1.2, which equates to “low” value for money by the government’s standards.

The BCR for the full network is 1.5, which represents “low to medium” value for money.

I asked Mr Thurston what the new BCR is for HS2 without the eastern leg. He didn’t know.

That tells us all we need to know - there is no business case for HS2.

Furthermore, the Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) has noted serious concerns about the delivery of the HS2 project.

In its 2019-20 annual report, the IPA gave the full HS2 project a ‘red rating’ meaning “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable.”

For the IPA’s 2020-21 annual report, the project was broken up into its three distinct phases and each phase assigned a rating.

Phase 1 was rated amber/red, Phase 2a amber and Phase 2b was given a red rating.

I was also able to speak to Mr Thurston directly about a number of constituency issues relating to the build of HS2, such as the design of the Addison Road bridge, and the need for a green tunnel in Calvert, which I will continue to pursue on behalf of my constituents.