A recently published report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has caused concern that the £50billion being paid out for the HS2 project may not be as beneficial to the public as was first assumed.
HS2, a high speed rail line between Manchester, Birmingham and London, was accused by the report of being just one of several “ambitious, expensive transport infrastructure programmes” being conducted by the Department for Transport (DfT). The report went on to say that “we are not convinced that these programmes are part of a clear strategic approach to investment in the rail network.” The department have issued a budget of £50billion for the project, which includes a long-winded contingency plan, however the report has made accusations that “without appropriate controls, it could be used to mask cost increases”.
In addition to HS2, the report also criticises the department for other proposals recently made. The committee’s chairman Margaret Hodge stated that ‘Investment in major rail infrastructure is hugely important, yet the government takes decisions without a clear strategic plan… For instance, the Government recently announced proposals for HS3. It did not carry out an assessment of HS3 before it gave the go-ahead to HS2 and it therefore did not test whether improved connectivity in the North was a greater priority”.
The report highlighted the need for a long-term strategy covering at least the next 30 years for the UK’s transport infrastructure, arguing that only in terms of this long-term view would benefits for the public be maximised.
However the government have retorted that the supposed disorganisation and lack of planning is “more damming evidence of the consequences of 20 years of fragmentation since our railways were broken apart and privatised” (Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union).
Whilst HS2 has faced both strong appraisal and criticism since its announcement, it gives the government an opportunity to demonstrate how public ownership of the railways could significantly impact the UK transport infrastructure in the next few decades.
We currently have an urgent vacancy for a Senior Structural Engineer in the London area to work on a high profile rail project. If you are a Chartered Engineer with a background in rail projects and station design please call our team on 02392 603030.
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