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New HS2 chair vows to learn from Crossrail woes

Hs2 train

New High Speed 2 (HS2) project promoter HS2 Ltd chair Allan Cook has vowed to learn from the problems encountered on Crossrail.

Speaking before the Commons transport select committee and for the first time since his appointment in January, Cook said he was “committed to understanding more about what the problems were with Crossrail and actually apply them to HS2”.

Crossrail was meant to open in December last year but is currently undergoing a re-programming exercise to determine when the line will open after a series of engineering challenges emerged and prevented it from being completed on time.

Cook’s predecessor Sir Terry Morgan was also chair Crossrail Ltd,  the body set up to deliver Crossrail, at the time the delay was announced. He resigned from the HS2 Ltd post in early December last year, after saying that he expected the Crossrail debacle would cost him his job at HS2 Ltd.

Cook said that he had met with the new Crossrail chair Tony Meggs twice since Meggs’ appointment in January and had watched the Commons public accounts committee grilling of Crossrail executives last week.

“I watched the whole process last week and they were very apologetic about the situation they found themselves in,” he said. “We will absolutely learn from some of the things that happened with Crossrail.”

He went on to say that he “prided his career on openness, transparency” and making sure that he was aware of what was going on in the programme. But he said this also had to come from the board and he was confident that HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston had built a “very talented, experienced board and executive team” to deliver the project.

The appointment of two new non-executive members to the HS2 Ltd board is expected to be announced at the end of March. Cook said these would increase the diversity of the organisation at a senior level.

When questioned by transport select committee chair Lillan Greenwood on when the 2015 cost estimate would be brought up to 2019 prices, “because prices must have gone up by now”, he replied it was for the Department for Transport (DfT) to provide updates.

“What we do is we provide that information in to the board on the programme and then subsequently into the department [DfT],” said Cook. “It’s then up to the Department of Transport to say we need to make a statement with where we are with regard to the programme in general.” 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Philip Alexander

    Good to hear that "lessons will be learned".......How often have we heard that before?
    May I respectfully suggest that the lesson is this:-
    1. Assume that the out-turn cost will be double the current back of the envelope estimate of £56 BILLION.
    2. Add at least 5 years to the date of opening.
    3. Adjust revenue expectations in accordance with the new date of opening.
    4. Re-work the Benefit/Cost ratio. Since this will be considerably less than 1.0, the whole stupid vanity project becomes un-economic, thus
    5. Cancel HS2 immediately, save over £100 BILLION and if the country really does have that sort of money, then spend it on sensible infrastructure.

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