The government was warned three years ago that High Speed 2 would be unaffordable alongside the Department for Transport’s other spending commitments, it has emerged.
A previously supressed 2012 Cabinet Office report into the project said there was a “lack of a clear picture of the overall cost” of the first phase of HS2, warning that the £16.28bn price tag “excludes some known additional costs”.
The project assessment review, which has only come to light following freedom of information requests by campaigners battling the high-speed link, rated the delivery confidence for the project as “amber/red”, meaning officials highlighted a number of risks to completion.
These risks included land access from landowners affected by the route of new line, as well as “a campaign or resistance from stakeholders”.
The report also recommended that the Department for Transport and the Treasury agree “a timeline and strategy” for assessing the affordability of the project, warning that the cost “may become a risk without an owner”.
On the issue of affordability, the report said: “The Department [for Transport] believes… that the costs of this project are so large, and over such a long period, that it will not be able to afford it alongside all its other likely spending commitments.”
The report was released just hours after transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced a review of Network Rail’s £38.5bn five-year investment programme, amid mounting criticism of the operator.