Lord Berkeley: Ministers have “misled Parliament” over HS2 cost
Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Berkeley has accused MPs of misleading Parliament over the cost of HS2.
He argued that it was “inconceivable” that ministers did not know about the possibility of the high-speed rail project exceeding its original £55.7 billion budget.
This follows news, originally reported in the Financial Times, that Allan Cook, the chairman of HS2, has written to the Department of Transport to warn that the project cannot be completed within the original budget framework.
In the letter, Cook predicted that the final cost would likely fall between £70 billion and £85 billion, roughly £20 billion over the original budget.
Berkeley stated: “The letter from the new chair of HS2 is hardly speculation when he says that the capital costs is likely to exceed £86 billion."
"This has been confirmed by up to a dozen senior staff in HS2 who are tweeting, some of them have been sacked for their sins, who are tweeting that this figure is correct.
"This has been going on for three years. It is inconceivable that ministers did not know about this even before the HS2 phase one bill received royal assent.
"I would suggest that the ministers have actually misled Parliament by not giving this new higher figure that they had known about for three or four years."
Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the transport minister, said the government will publish an update at the end of 2019. This update will include the “latest assessment” of the costs and schedule of HS2.
Responding to Berkeley’s accusation that ministers had known about the cost increase for “about three or four years”, Vere replied: “The new chairman of HS2 has been in place for just over six months. He is undertaking a review of the costs and he is providing ongoing advice to government.
“This advice is not news, it is ongoing and we are working with him as he looks at all of his supply chains to encourage him to make sure that the costs are appropriate.”