Leaked Government report warned controversial HS2 rail scheme was '˜fundamentally flawed'

A leaked Government report has revealed ministers were warned two years ago that High Speed 2 was '˜fundamentally flawed', and could overshoot its £56bn budget by a staggering 60 percent.

The document, which is marked ‘sensitive’ and ‘not for publication’, says Europe’s biggest infrastructure project was in a “precarious position” and would be “classified as ‘failed’ by any internationally-recognised definition of project success”.  

The project is due to pass through Nottinghamshire, and will stop at a yet-to-be-built station at Toton, as well as Derbyshire where trains will call in at Chesterfield

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HS2 Ltd, the taxpayer-owned company responsible for the project, said it “does not recognise” the figures, and that it remains on target to be completed on time and on budget.

Supporters of HS2 say it will bring economic benefits to the area and will be a major boost to the infrastructure, decreasing journey times and freeing up capacity on existing train lines.

However critics have said the project is too expensive and environmentally damaging, and that existing train networks should be updated before a brand new train line is built.

Now, a leaked Government report has raised grave concerns both about the budget and the way the project is being handled.

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The report was written for the Government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which keeps tabs on major spending projects.

It says the overspend could be around 20 to 60 percent. This would mean the total cost could be up to £90 billion.

The proposed cost of the scrapped Midland Mainline electrification project was £1.1bn.

The leaked report is also critical of the management culture at HS2 Ltd, saying it falls “well-short of best practice’, and that the leadership lacked “cohesion and common vision”.

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It went on to say there was a need for “greater transparency and frankness” about the costs, timescale and benefits of the project.

The most recent annual report by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority evaluated HS2’s  likelihood of achieving its aims and objectives, and doing so on time and on budget.

It gave it an amber/red rating, meaning “successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible”.

Speaking about the report, a spokesman for HS2 Limited said: “HS2 does not recognise or agree with either this analysis or the figures it contains.

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“A recent joint statement from the IPA, DfT and the Treasury stated that ‘the HS2 project is on time and on budget’.

“HS2 Ltd’s processes and structure have continued to mature, something underwritten by our annual report and accounts.

“We have also added further strength to our executive team with the appointment of a new chief financial officer and chief operating officer.”

Joe Rukin is the campaign manager of Stop HS2, and said: “Over the years, every single justification for building HS2 has been overblown and proved to be spurious.

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“Now we learn that the Government knows that HS2 is already a failure against its stated objectives in every measurable sense, but they are blindly going ahead with it, knowing it’s going to go tens of billions over budget.

“This report shows that Government know HS2 is a failed project that won’t deliver on its promises and will go well over budget, and proves they are only sticking with it because they are too stubborn to admit they were wrong.”

Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service