MPs have slammed the government’s handling of a “floundering” HS2 Euston project this morning, amid mounting criticism over the scheme’s soaring costs and ongoing delays.
In a highly critical report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to “finally establish” its plans for the station against what it is willing to spend.
The PAC said government has still not reached an understanding of how it will manage the effect of soaring inflation on the project, with their inquiry hearing of 30 to 40 per cent swings in raw material costs.
In 2015, a plan to build an 11-platform station at Euston, as part of the wider HS2 scheme, was first proposed.
However, the project has been marred by controversy and delay, with HS2 Ltd and the DfT struggling to manage its ever-growing cost and ultimately pausing planned construction in April.
A “completely unrealistic”, initial 2020 budget of £2.6bn has already been far exceeded, the PAC noted, with costs now expected to reach at least £4.8bn and the proposed number of platforms cut down to 10.
Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said “the HS2 Euston project is floundering.”
“The pause, ostensibly to save money, is not cost free,” she explained, adding that “mothballing and possible compensation for businesses which have lost work will all need to be added to the HS2 tally.”
Hillier also said that the “unrealistic” 2020 budget was set with “the expectation that it would be revised.”
The inquiry itself found that the DfT’s submissions to parliament did not disclose the likelihood that construction costs could be “significantly higher” than expected, urging the government to provide greater transparency in future.
“The government must demonstrate that it is not just repeating the same mistakes of unrealistic costs. HS2 Euston has shown us that forging ahead over-optimistically in an unclear direction is clearly not the right approach,” Hillier said.
No HS2 trains will run into Euston until 2041 as of today, despite an initial 2026 target with prospective travellers forced to wait for the routes services to Manchester, the North West and the East Midlands.
Responding to the committee’s report, a DfT spokesperson said: “We remain committed to delivering HS2 from Euston to Manchester in the most cost-effective way for taxpayers, which is why earlier this year we made the decision to rephase the construction of Euston to help balance the nation’s books and work on an affordable design for the station.”
“The National Audit Office recently acknowledged this will provide time to put the station design on a more stable footing and we continue to work at pace to ensure the transformational benefits of HS2 are delivered to passengers by better connecting our biggest cities, supporting thousands of jobs and helping grow the economy.
London’s HS2 line is expected to open between 2029 and 2023, with its hub at West-London’s Old Oak Common.
“We note the recommendations made in the committee’s report and will respond to them in due course.”
Hs2 declined to comment when contacted by City A.M.