Sunak and Hunt can’t play shocked at HS2’s cost overruns
news.movim.eu / TheGuardian · Yesterday - 05:00
Yes, the costs of the high-speed rail project are getting ‘totally out of control’ – but it’s hardly lacked political oversight
One piece of political spin about HS2’s spiralling costs is nonsense: the idea that ministers have a right to be shocked by the numbers. HS2 Ltd, the body building the railway and new stations, may be “arm’s length” for shorthand purposes, but it is not some faraway entity operating beyond government scrutiny. Rather, it is tightly meshed to the Department for Transport (DfT), which is involved in all big planning and spending decisions.
So when the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, says costs are “getting totally out of control” – a reasonable analysis as the bill heads towards a grotesque £100bn – he should explain why the government is seemingly surprised. Whitehall insiders talk about HS2’s bosses behaving “like kids with the golden credit card” but that ignores the fact that there is an “open books” relationship with the DfT. The government sees the monthly credit card statements, as it were. And No 10, incidentally, signs off on the megabucks salaries (departing chief executive Mark Thurston got £676,000 last year) on appointment.Continue reading...