HS2 timetable ‘unrealistic’, NAO warns

The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that the High Speed 2 (HS2) project is facing considerable cost and timing pressures, suggesting that the current timetable is ’unrealistic’.

The current target for opening is 2026, but options for extending the date to bring down cost estimates are now being considered.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has asked for the schedule to be revised in order to increase confidence for delivery from 60 per cent to 80 per cent, without increasing costs.

A report from the NAO highlights that Phase 1 is currently forecast to cost £27,384 million, which is £204 million more than the available funding. In addition, £7 billion of savings are required to bring the costs of phase 2 inline with the agreed funding at the time of the 2015 spending review.

The NAO has called on the DfT to address the challenges and risks to value for money, advising that it must develop a long term vision for the whole rail system and revise an achievable timescale for the project.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “HS2 is a large, complex and ambitious programme which is facing cost and time pressures. The unrealistic timetable set for HS2 Ltd by the Department means they are not as ready to deliver as they hoped to be at this point. The Department [DfT] now needs to get the project working to a timescale that is achievable.”