£253m spent... and that's before any work has begun
The news that High Speed Rail 2 is already over budget has come to no surprise to campaigners against the project.
A fortnight ago, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced plans for a Paving Bill to be introduced in Parliament this year, which has the sole purpose of releasing more money for the project.
In total, £253 million has already been spent on the HS2 project, four years before construction is due to start.
While there are many issues indicating alarming overspends, the worst example is the seemingly blank cheque awarded to consultancy firm Atkins. Fresh from its involvement in the West Coast Mainline fiasco, which cost the taxpayer £50 million, the company had already overspent its 18-month budget for design work in just nine months.
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At the end of April last year, it was awarded a £13.3 million contract which was set to conclude in the deposition of the Stage 1 Hybrid Bill in October this year. However, by January, it had already spent £14 million.
Design contracts awarded so far are simply for preliminary design work, as detailed design for Stage 1 would not happen until 2016, after the Hybrid Bill is due to be passed.
It seems other contracts awarded last year have similar overspends. Arup, the sponsors (patrons) of pro-HS2 lobbyists Leeds and Birmingham chambers of commerce, have been awarded several contracts to develop HS2.
They have already been paid £10.1 million from a contract to redevelop Euston station.
The redevelopment, described at the time by HS2 Ltd chief engineer Andrew McNaughton as "the biggest development London will ever have seen", has now been scrapped, it seems.
In a meeting with Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council and Frank Dobson MP, HS2 Ltd has reportedly said it is now looking at a "cheaper and less disruptive option", after cost estimates came in at 30 to 40 per cent over the original plan.
Additionally, as reported by the Independent On Sunday, HS2 Ltd's IT is suffering from "teething problems".
Penny Gaines, chairwoman of Stop HS2 said: "There is mounting evidence that costs will escalate beyond the £33 billion budget.
"They have cancelled the next round of community forums, much to the disgust of communities who are being blighted. They have dropped the spur to Heathrow from the HS2 plans, without dropping the budget."
HS2 Ltd has clearly demonstrated that its projected budgets have no credibility.
It is simply writing blank cheques with taxpayers' money to the very consultancy firms who have lobbied to convince Governments that this insane plan was needed in the first place.
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign manager.