Cheryl Gillan is the Member of Parliament for Chesham and Amersham. Follow Cheryl on Twitter.
Today’s National Audit Office report into High Speed 2 will set off alarm bells all across Government and should bring about a major rethink of the Government’s transport policy.
The 50-page report was understatedly damning of the preparation for HS2, exposing fundamental flaws in the project and the project team. It confirmed that Government had failed to set out clear and cohesive strategic objectives and, more worryingly, highlighted the serious doubts over the ability and capacity of both the Department of Transport and its subsidiary company, HS2 Ltd, to successfully deliver the project.
The NAO judged the timetable to be overly ambitious and it has already resulted in mistakes being made by the Department on the benefit-cost calculations. The intention to introduce a Hybrid Bill in October 2013 seems now to be impossible and, therefore, it will likewise be impossible that this legislation will be passed before the next General Election. Over ambitious timetabling was also one of the contributory factors to the failure of the West Coast Mainline franchise and it would appear that the Department of Transport has failed to learn from its mistakes.
The Department comes under criticism for failure to engage adequately with stakeholders and it would even appear that it is failing to address criticisms from its own internal auditors. It is claimed that there are more than just a few problems with finding enough staff of the right calibre to give people the confidence that this project will be well implemented.