News | Published January 06 2020

Costs of HS2 “out of control”, Lord Berkeley says in report

Deputy chairman of the government commissioned HS2 review panel, Lord Berkeley, has published an independent “dissenting report” saying there is “overwhelming evidence” that the costs of the project have spiralled “out of control”.

Having been appointed deputy chair of the Oakervee Review into the high-speed rail project, Lord Berkeley subsequently withdrew his support following disagreements with the draft version of the paper.

Lord Berkeley claims that he and some members of its panel were unable to contribute to the final draft after the review was “effectively terminated” on October 31, 2019.

He also claims the report was “unduly influenced” by HS2 promoters and accused HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport of not co-operating fully with the review concerning the costs and benefits of the project, which HS2 Ltd denies.

The Labour peer’s own report criticises the alleged misleading of MPs over how much the high-speed rail project would cost. It says that the cost was purported to be around £55 billion in 2015, whereas it may now exceed £108 billion.

Addressing the increased costs, Lord Berkeley told the BBC: "The real cause [of increasing costs] is [HS2] has been over-designed. You do not need to go 400kph in a country as small as ours... The higher the speed makes a big difference to the cost.”

HS2 trains are scheduled to commence operation between London and Birmingham in 2029, but Lord Berkeley says that it is unlikely to happen before 2031.

In the report, Lord Berkeley says: “The aim must be to give these areas the same standard of commuting service as the south east, whilst, at the same time, improving the existing lines from London northwards.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said that Lord Berkeley’s report “represents his personal view”, while Manchester City Council head, Sir Richard Leese, called for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to be “delivered together, in full”.

Leese added: "We don't much appreciate being told by a peer, who divides his time between London and Cornwall, what the North wants."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday that the government remains committed to delivering HS2 and that a review is "under way”.

Raab said: "We want to look at the best way to get value for money in relation to that substantial investment.”

The findings of the Oakervee Review are due to be published in the coming months.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
January 06 2020

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