Is HS2 jumping the gun?
Critics of HS2 have accused the scheme’s promoters of flouting parliamentary procedure by initiating the procurement process before it is has been properly sanctioned.
The campaign group, Stop HS2, claims contracts could be signed before the HS2 Hybrid Bill gets The Royal Assent in 2016, and that it intends to start enabling work before then. The news comes as ministers addressed HS2 procurement conferences in London (on the 14th) and in Manchester (on the 23rd).
The HS2 Hybrid Bill was deposited in Parliament in November 2013, and the House of Commons passed its second reading in April:
“The committee of MPs currently looking at HS2 have consistently said they will take two years to get through petitions, and after that the Lords will have to have their say. HS2 Ltd clearly don’t give a stuff about parliamentary process or democracy, as they intend not only to sign contracts, but to actually start work before HS2 would be passed, “ said Joe Rukin, Stop HS2’s Campaign Manager.
Stop HS2 also accused HS2 Ltd of massaging figures and dropping parts of the project: It says costs associated with Phase 1 contracts increased by £1.15bn, or 11%, since November 2013, bringing the total cost up to £11.8bn; and that surface costs have increased the most, by 40.7% to £3.8bn.
Citing the latest NAO report: Lessons from major rail infrastructure programmes, Rukin added that the BCR (benefit cost ratio) had been downwardly revised from 2.60 in 2010 to the current 1.40: “The national auditors said that the business case for HS2 was overstated by 86% because there was a lack of common sense, unrealistic analysis and double counting.”
However a spokesman for HS2 Ltd told LTT: “Assuming Royal Assent in 2016, construction begins in a little over two years. That’s why it’s vital we engage with industry early to give them time to prepare for what will be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe. It’s important to note that no construction contracts have been tendered or awarded yet – the Supply Chain Conferences are designed to give industry what to expect in the future. The only contracts awarded so far have been for design and ground investigation work – authority to do so was granted under the 2013 Paving Act.”