Parliament 'must not be left in the dark' over HS2, MPs demand

MPs have written to HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson demanding the Government is honest with Parliament over the project.

The letters released today from the Commons Transport Select Committee follow a damning report from the Public Accounts Committee last week, which said HS2 was “badly off course”.

Writing on behalf of the transport committee, chairman Huw Merriman told Mr Stephenson: “Parliament must not be left in the dark about delays and cost overruns, as it has been in recent years. Regular, robust and open information to Parliament is important for building trust in this project.”

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Asking for details on how Mr Stephenson planned to deliver six monthly reviews, Mr Merriman wrote: As the largest ever project on the Government’s Major Projects Portfolio, it is only right that parliamentarians are regularly informed of the project’s progress and have the information they need to properly hold Government to account for its delivery.”

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson. Photo: PAHS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson. Photo: PA
HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson. Photo: PA | pa

Mr Stephenson told the committee that “being transparent to Parliament is going to be a cornerstone” of his tenure.

In a similar letter to Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Mr Merriman said transparency was “vital” to “ensure public trust in the competence and conduct of HS2 Ltd”, and reminded Mr Thurston he had committed to inform Parliament if there was a risk of failing to miss a milestone target on the scheme.

Mr Merriman also asked Mr Stephenson to explain why he had given evidence to the committee that he was sceptical about reducing the number of trains running on the line.

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The long-awaited Oakervee review, released in February, recommended running 14 trains per hour instead of the planned 18, and that combined with bringing speeds down, this would save 10 per cent of the building cost.

Previously a DfT spokesperson said: “The current Secretary of State has been clear that this project must go forward with a new approach to Parliamentary reporting, with clear transparency, strengthened accountability to ministers, and tight control of costs.

“We have comprehensively reset the HS2 programme, introducing a revised budget and funding regime, with significant reforms to ensure the project is delivered in a more disciplined and transparent manner.

“This includes appointing the first dedicated HS2 minister, bi-annual updates to Parliament and establishing a monthly ministerial task force, chaired by the Secretary of State, to ensure the project has a rigorous scrutiny like the 2012 Olympics.”