It’s too late to save money on ‘gold-plated’ HS2

A lack of early scrutiny of the costs and delivery of HS2 has left the project gold-plated and too far down the line to fix, the Government’s infrastructure tsar has said.

Nick Smallwood, chief executive for the Infrastructure Projects Authority, the government body which monitors the delivery of major government projects, criticised the approach by the project in the early stages and suggested that his body was unable to properly scrutinise the plans.

The revelations come as Huw Merriman, the rail minister, told The Telegraph that there was “no blank cheque” for the rail line, and he expected HS2 to deliver within budget, despite inflationary pressures.

Mr Smallwood was giving evidence last week as part of a House of Lords Built Environment Committee.

Discussing the delivery of major projects in the country, he said that “it was a constant battle” with project teams who “too often say that they know what they are doing, until they find out they don’t”.

‘It is too late’

When asked by Lord Carrington of Fulham if his body was allowed to sufficiently scrutinise HS2 early on, Mr Smallwood said it was not.

He added: “In my view the scope is gold-plated and it is too late. I had that conversation before the final investment decision was made but going back and changing the scope now would have cost us money and caused delay.”

It comes as the cost of HS2 comes under increased scrutiny after the price has fluctuated in recent years. In 2019 the estimated cost of the line shot up from £55.7bn to between £72bn and £98bn.

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