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HS3 or HS2? Both? Where's the strategy for high speed rail MPs ask?

Proposals for HS3 have undermined confidence in planning for HS2 the Public Accounts Committee suggested today in its report on Lessons from major rail infrastructure programmes.

And it questioned why there had been no assessment before the go ahead of HS2 as to whether better rail services in the North were a greater priority.

The PAC queried whether Department for Transport has in place a proper strategy for major rail project development.

 “We are not convinced that these programmes are part of a clear strategic approach to investment in the rail network,” Hodge said. “In particular, recent proposals for a railway connecting cities in the north of England – a possible High Speed 3 – suggest that the department takes a piecemeal approach to its rail investment rather than considering what would benefit the system as a whole and prioritizing its investment accordingly.”

Hodge said regarding proposals for HS3 that government “did not carry out an assessment of HS3 before it gave the go ahead to HS2 and it therefore did not test whether improved connectivity in the North was a greater priority.”

“The department should set out a long term strategy covering the next 30 years for transport infrastructure in the UK and use this strategy to inform decisions about investment priorities and specific investment decisions.”

PAC also said it was concerned that contingencies in the  £50bn HS2 budget would mean that money would automatically be spent. “We are concerned that this will simply be used to mask cost overspends rather than valid calls on contingency funds.”

DfT needed to put more people and investment into making sure the economic spin off benefits from rail investment actually materialise, PAC said.

“The Department has a long way to go to prove that it is being more effective in realising benefits from major programmes,” Hodge said.

“The lessons from Ebbsfleet (on HS1) show that, without proper planning and active intervention, regeneration and the expected substantial economic benefits have not been delivered, despite High Speed 1 construction being completed seven years ago. The government is only now putting in place an urban development corporation at Ebbsfleet to rectify this. We should not repeat these mistakes with HS2.

Finally, all too often extra costs, long delays and poor implementation result, in part, from a failure by the department to invest enough people and money into supporting the infrastructure projects.

We are concerned that the department is repeating the mistakes of the past with HS2 given the limited resources it is investing in supporting the project to secure regeneration benefits from this £50 billion programme."