18 April 2024
Public Accounts Committee Report - HS2 and Euston

HS2 verdict: Scheme now very poor value for money after Northern leg cancellation.

- Report calls for answers from Govt to questions raised by decision to cancel HS2 Phase 2

- Failure of governance and oversight over spiralling costs following years of warnings

Following the truncation of the High Speed 2 (HS2) programme to only its Phase 1, connecting London to the West Midlands, concerns were raised regarding its value for taxpayers. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has released a report scrutinising both the high-speed rail project and Euston station, adding to over a decade of scrutiny.

The government acknowledges that completing only Phase 1 would not yield sufficient value for money, as costs outweigh benefits significantly. However, the Department for Transport (DfT) argues that proceeding with Phase 1, excluding previous expenditures and factoring in avoided remediation costs, is still preferable. The Department for Transport (DfT) told the PAC it was still better to complete Phase 1 – a calculation made by excluding the £23bn spent to date, and including as a benefit of the project avoiding approximately £11bn of remediation costs from cancelling entirely.  Nevertheless, the PAC remains unconvinced by the calculations and demands a clear assessment of Phase 1's benefits.

The cancellation of HS2's Northern leg raises uncertainties regarding to various implications. These include the disposal of unused land and property, consideration of taxpayer and local interests, fairness to those whose properties were compulsorily purchased, impacts on related rail projects, utilisation of redirected funds, and the operational challenges of slower high-speed trains on unsuited tracks. Persistent cost overruns and delays indicate governance and oversight failures at HS2 Ltd and DfT. The estimated cost of the completion of Phase 1 with inflation range as high as £67bn. The report demands explanations within six months on how these issues will be rectified.

Urgent decisions are also required regarding funding for the development of HS2 Euston, reliant on attracting private investment. The absence of a government plan raises doubts about the feasibility of attracting the necessary investment within the required timeframe, according to the PAC.

During the public hearing held back in November, I asked the Senior Officials about the individuals who have had their properties compulsorily acquired, often against their wishes or under the threat of compulsory acquisition.

The Full Report –


Details on the Inquiry -


Oral Evidence of the Session -