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Department for Transport admits controlling HS2 costs will be “challenging”

News   •   Jan 19, 2017 09:25 GMT

Controlling costs of £55.7bn HS2 project will be “challenging”, and cost estimates for phase 2 won’t be set until 2019.

The Department for Transport has described controlling the costs of the HS2 project as “challenging”, and says that cost estimates of delivering Phase 2b will not be certain until 2019.

In written evidence to support an ongoing Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry on the Great Western Railway, The department’s Secretary, Phillip Rutnam, said that costs estimates of Phase 2b will become more certain as HS2 Ltd awards contracts this year to progress the design of Phase 2b.

In the evidence report he said: “On the timing to secure assurance on the delivery of the identified potential efficiencies, the 2015 Spending Review set a budget for HS2 of £55.7Bn.

“HS2 is an ambitious engineering project which will take many years to complete, and like any programme of this scale, controlling costs will be challenging, yet the government is committed to delivering HS2 within this budget.

“We continue to scrutinise HS2 Ltd’s cost estimates closely and will report revised estimates in the Outline Business Case when it is published in 2019 to support the Phase 2b hybrid Bill that we plan to deposit in Parliament at the same time.”

Phase 2b route, which will travel from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds, is undergoing a review by the DfT, who are consulting on several changes to th route, including a new connection to Sheffield’s existing train station.

The consultations close in March, with the government set to publish its formal response later in the year.

It is expected that Phase Two will begin operating trains around 2033, with part of the route (between West Midlands and Crewe) to open in 2027.

At the PAC hearing, which took place on 14 December, Phillip Boswell MP also asked Rutnam about the government’s strategy and plans for the necessary skills to deliver rail enhancements.

Rutnam highlighted the government’s announcement of its Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy (TISS) in January 2016 which aims to create 30,000 apprenticeships within the rail and road sectors by 2020. The strategy will be directed by the industry-led Strategic Apprenticeship Taskforce, which was announced last April and is chaired by Mike Brown, commissioner of Transport for London.

The permanent secretary further explained that the TISS will be supported by the Rail Sector Skills Delivery Plan announced by the rail industry in December, which will look to develop training standards and encourage recruitment and retention in the sector.

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