Transport secretary Chris Grayling has revealed that the new chair of High Speed 2 (HS2) promoter HS2 Ltd, Allan Cook, is undertaking a review of the project “to make sure the costs and budget are right and that it is deliverable”.
Grayling, who spoke to New Civil Engineer at the opening of the new Meridian Water Station in North London, said Cook has been taking stock of the project since he was appointed as chair in December last year.
Cook - who previously served as Atkins chairman - was drafted in after a short stint by Sir Terry Morgan. Morgan resigned as chairman of both HS2 and Crossrail when news of the Crossrail delay broke.
“What we’ve got with HS2 is a new chairman in Allan Cook who is rightly taking his first period of the project to make sure it’s in good shape to make sure the budget is right, the costs are right and that it’s deliverable,” Grayling said. “I’m really waiting for Allan [Cook] to come back to me to say this is how we’re going to take the project forward.”
Grayling added that learning from Crossrail, decisions had to be made “in the context of what is deliverable and not [focus on] decisions that are not deliverable”.
In response to whether the project would open on time, he replied “What we’ve learnt from Crossrail 1 is, let’s get the project right.”
Speaking at a House of Commons transport select committee in March, Cook said he was “committed to understanding more about what the problems were with Crossrail and actually apply them to HS2”.
A revised business case will be published by the Department for Transport in December this year following the outcome of the government’s Spending Review.
The original combined budget for phase 1 of HS2, from London to Birmingham, and phase 2 from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, was set as £51.7bn in the 2011 Spending Review. It subsequently increased to £55.7bn in 2015.
A HS2 spokesperson said: “It is the job of the chairman and the board to keep the entire project under scrutiny, and they regularly report back to the department.”
While ruling himself out of the ongoing Conservative leadership contest, Grayling added that any successor to outgoing prime minister Theresa May, would “quickly realise” HS2 as “essential to the future of the country”.
This is despite, Tory leadership front runners Boris Johnson, Dominic Rabb, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom all saying they would scrap HS2.
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