Audit Office has ‘narrow view’ on HS2, says union

16 May 2013

ASLEF’s general secretary Mick Whelan said today that the National Audit Office was taking a ‘very narrow view’ as it argued that a new high-speed train may not have business benefits. The NAO says it has reservations about how the planned rail link would deliver growth and jobs.

‘This is no time for counting beans,’ Mick says.‘Rail enriches society socially, environmentally and practically. HS2 will be a huge asset to the UK. My only regret is that the current proposals make the line half as long as it should be.’

Mick said he recognised that the National AuditOffice has an important job to do, but says just now and again it could move away from its ‘doom and gloom’ formula. ‘I think there is a time to accept that worth cannot always be expressed in terms of money. HS2 has advantages beyond the accountant’s balance sheet.’

The NAO complains that it has ‘reservations about the business case’, worries that the three-year timetable for planning is ‘challenging’ and that benefits for regional economic growth are ‘unclear’. Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, says she has doubts that the 100,000 new jobs predicted to be created by HS2 ‘would not have been created anyway’.

But the union insists that a new rail link is necessary, a point reiterated by Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle.

‘Her concerns are about the ability of the Department for Transport to deliver the project. We share those anxieties, but that does not affect our backing even for this limited scheme,’ Mick says.

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