The controversial HS2 project is careering off the rails as costs nearly double to £100billion.
In a devastating report out today, Parliament’s spending watchdog raises searching questions over the full extent of the scheme’s problems.
MPs ask why HS2 Ltd boss Mark Thurston got a £46,000 bonus on top of his £605,350 salary last year, the highest of any Government official.
And they accuse the Transport Department’s top-ranking civil servant, Permanent Secretary Bernadette Kelly, and HS2 executives of trying to pull the wool over their eyes.
Commons Public Accounts Committee Labour chair Meg Hillier said: “There is no excuse for hiding the extent of the problems the project was facing from Parliament and taxpayers.”
Tory deputy chair Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown added: “HS2 Ltd told the Department it would be unable to deliver the programme to cost and schedule.
“Yet the Permanent Secretary did not inform the committee.”
MPs say that their most serious accusation against Ms Kelly is “potentially a breach of the Civil Service Code and Parliamentary Privilege”.
The link from London to Birmingham, and then to Manchester and Leeds by 2040, is five years behind schedule and way over its £55.7billion budget.
The PAC said HS2 Ltd and Whitehall knew it was in trouble by October 2018 but neither its annual report nor evidence to MPs made that clear.
The cost to protect communities from disruption has quadrupled from £245million to £1.2billion. Yet Mr Thurston’s bonus was linked to controlling the finances.
Ms Hillier added: “The Government has a wealth of mistakes on major transport infrastructure to learn from.
“It does not give confidence that it is finally going to take those lessons.”
HS2 Ltd referred us to the Department for Transport, who told us: “The Permanent Secretary acknowledged there were cost pressures that the Department and HS2 Ltd were working to address. Those discussions were commercially confidential.”