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Initial HS2 cost estimates 'enormously wrong'

17 Dec 2018

Initial HS2 cost estimates 'enormously wrong'

The initial cost estimates for the £55.7bn High Speed Two rail project were hundreds of millions of pounds too low, a former HS2 boss has claimed.

Doug Thornton, who was previously Land and Property Director for HS2, claimed the value and number of properties needed to be purchased along the route had been underestimated.

Mr Thornton led the team responsible for aquiring the 70 square kilometres of land needed for the project from August 2015 to January 2016. 

He claimed these estimates were not reflected in the numbers given to MPs deciding whether to give the project the green light in an interview with BBC Panorama.

“There was a gap of almost 100 per cent in terms of the numbers, wrong numbers of properties that the organisation had not budgeted for,” he said.

Mr Thornton the estimates were “enormously wrong” and was “absolutely appalled” that the “numbers could be advanced in such a loose and slapdash fashion”.

According to BBC Panorama, another former senior HS2 insider agreed the early estimates given to MPs did not reflect the higher costs.

HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston told Panorama: “It’s perfectly normal that in a scheme as vast and as complex as HS2, that over time we have a greater understanding of the alignment of the route, how many land parcels and land areas it affects and what the full extent of the acquisition programme needs to be.”

He added: “I’m not worried about overspending, I’m confident we’ve got a budget we can stand by.”

Mr Thornton’s claims are made closely following HS2 and Crossrail chairman Sir Terry Morgan’s resignation from his roles at the two infrastructure projects.

He had come under pressure due to cost issues with both projects.

Earlier in November, Mr Thurston told Construction News that HS2 was currently in talks with phase one civils contractors to reduce costs by spring next year.

He also said there government will give “no more money” for the scheme and that it was up to the industry to make HS2 affordable.

Government watchdog the National Audit Office investigated the land and property programme for phase one of the programme (London to the West Midlands) in September this year.

It said the cost estimates had “increased significantly over time” but concluded that with major land acquisition programmes such as these cost estimates are “inherently uncertain and subject to changes”.

Article & Image Source: Construction News

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