It is “impossible” to estimate the final cost of the Tories’ disastrous HS2 rail network, a National Audit Office (NAO) report concluded last week. There is mounting pressure on the Tories to scrap it.
The project is billions of pounds over budget and years behind schedule. It’s a plan to pour billions of pounds of public money into private pockets—while existing train services remain overpriced and unreliable.
The NAO said the Department for Transport’s latest estimate of HS2’s cost is up to £88 billion—as much as 58 percent over available funding.
Full services on the entire network are “now forecast to start between three and seven years later than originally planned”.
The report revealed that the project was officially rated as “unachievable” twice by the Infrastructure and Project Authority.
“HS2 is over budget and behind schedule because the government and HS2 Ltd underestimated the complexity and risk involved,” it said. And it added that public money is set to meet a bigger proportion of costs, should the project go ahead.
The NAO said the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd “have not adequately managed risks” to public money.
Penny Gaines, Stop HS2 campaign group chair, said, “We were still being told in July that the budget was £56 billion by ministers who had been formally told by HS2 that the budget was unobtainable, and their estimates were increasing.
“We call on Boris Johnson to put this project out of its misery and cancel it immediately.”
The failure of private firms to provide a decent railway was underlined this week as Tories prepared to renationalise Northern Rail.
Millions of passengers have endured cancellations and delays since a botched new timetable rollout in May 2018. Previously run by Arriva, the nationalisation of Northern marks the second time in two years that the Tories have been forced to intervene.
The state-owned “operator of last resort” took over the Virgin Trains East Coast line—now known as LNER—in May 2018.
And in an effort to distract from Northern’s failings, the government promised to re-open closed rail lines in the north of England.
Transport minister Grant Shapps was due to announce new passenger services for towns that haven’t had a railway station since cuts in the 1960s.
It’s not the first time the Tories have hinted that they would reverse the Beeching cuts, which were carried out under a Conservative government.
Then-transport secretary Chris Grayling hinted at new train routes at the same time as he announced the collapse of the Virgin East Coast line.
The bloated vanity project of HS2 should be axed and all train services renationalised under democratic control.