The UK government is ready for a critical report by Whitehall’s spending watchdog on the high-speed rail line 2 just as Boris Johnson is determined to decide whether to proceed with the £ 88 billion project.
The National Audit Office is expected to publish its audit on upcoming HS2, which will accumulate new control over the system. A NAO report on HS2 in 2016 warned that the system’s cost / benefit ratio could drop if it did not stay within its £ 58.7 billion budget.
Since then, the estimated cost has risen to £ 30 billion with the completion of the first phase of the service, from London to Birmingham, delayed until 2031. The entire project is not expected to be completed until around 2040, approximately seven years. after the original target, the government announced.
The publication will be embarrassing for Mr. Johnson, who – despite being a previous critic of the regime – was decided to go ahead with the 330-mile railroad, the largest infrastructure project in Europe.
The prime minister fears the potential political fallout from the cancellation of a transportation project designed to help Northern England at a time when his commitment to the region is trumpeting. The Tories returned to power in December with a large majority after winning dozens of seats in the northern areas that voted Leave in the Brexit referendum, which now hope for further investment.
However, Dominic Cummings, his principal adviser, called the project a “disaster zone”, while his transportation adviser Andrew Gilligan has long been one of his loudest critics. They and other critics believe that money could be better spent on many smaller transportation systems in the north.
Mr. Johnson is expected to publish a review in the system of former HS2 President Douglas Oakervee when he makes his final decision on whether to proceed.
Oakervee suggested that the number of trains per hour on the line could be reduced from 18 to 14 to reduce the cost of billions of pounds, while recommending the construction of further stations – for example in Calvert in Buckinghamshire – and asking for greater contributions from the developers during station construction.
But industry experts believe that reducing the number of trains per hour would harm the overall economic case of the project. They also suggested that a new Calvert station could add up to 10 minutes to the 45-minute journey from London to Birmingham.
Other suggestions, such as a proposal to avoid expensive tunnels through London, building the HS2 terminus in Old Oak Common farther from the capital rather than Euston in the center, would weaken the economic case of the project, experts said. The economic case had already dropped from £ 2.30 for every £ 1 spent in 2017 to £ 1.30 to £ 1.50, according to Mr. Oakervee.
About £ 8 billion has been spent on HS2 since work began on the project ten years ago and the project is burning a quarter of a billion pounds a month. HS2 employs around 9,000 people, of whom about a third are employees, while the rest is made up of contractors and consultants. This would lead to 15,000 or 20,000 if he gets the green light.
If Mr. Johnson will endorse the project, construction is expected to begin in the spring, while supporters hope that parliament will approve a phase 2a bill from Birmingham to Crewe this summer. However, the bill for the approval of the northern part of the line, which runs through Manchester and Leeds, has been delayed and is unlikely to receive approval until the second half of 2023 at the earliest.
Last year the House of Lords Committee on Economic Affairs asked that work on the line be suspended until the economic case for the project was filed, stating that the costs were out of control.