High Speed 2 review

In a report, the National Audit Office says it has "reservations" over just how the proposed High Speed 2 rail network would deliver and rebalance economic growth.

Costs and benefits of HS2 'still uncertain'

The project to bring high speed rail services to Yorkshire has around a £3 billion funding gap according to the National Audit Office.

The controversial new HS2 link will cut the journey time from Leeds to London to just an hour and 20 minutes and is due to be completed by 2033. The government spending watchdog says Ministers have yet to decide where three-point-three billion pounds worth of funding for the project is coming from.

Geraldine Barker from the National Audit Office and Rail Minister Simon Burns say the project is still in the early stages.

HS2: Concerns of Audit Office

It's too early in the High Speed 2 programme to conclude on the likelihood of its achieving value for money. Our concern at this point is the lack of clarity around the Department's objectives. **The strategic case for the network should be better developed at this stage of the programme. It is intended to demonstrate the need for the line but so far presents limited evidence on forecast passenger demand and expected capacity shortages on existing lines.

It is also unclear how High Speed 2 will transform regional economies by delivering jobs and growth. The Department is trying against a challenging timetable to strengthen its evidence and analysis, which at present provide a weak foundation for securing and demonstrating success in the programme in future.

– Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office

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High Speed 2 review

Artist's impression of HS2 Credit: Calendar news

The National Audit Office has expressed "reservations" about the Department of Transport's business case in planning for the High Speed 2 rail network.

In a report out today, it says the Department has "poorly articulated" the strategic need for a transformation in rail capacity and how High Speed 2 would help generate regional economic growth.

According to the report, the Department's method for appraising the project put a high emphasis on journey-time savings, from faster and more reliable journeys.

However, the relationship between these savings and the strategic reasons for doing the project, such as rebalancing regional economies, was "unclear" .

The NAO says it is also unclear whether the business case covers just the route between London and the West Midlands (phase one, due to open in 2026) or the full Y-shaped network with lines from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds respectively (phase two, due to open in 2032).

The Y-network had a stronger economic case but this was much less certain as route designs were less well-developed. And the NAO estimates that there is a £3.3 billion funding gap over four years (2017-18 to 2020-21) which the government has yet to decide how to fill.