After a mounting tide of negative press and dire warnings of spiralling costs, UK Chancellor George Osborne has robustly defended the HS2 high speed rail project on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. The Chancellor told Marr that “we have set the budget for £42bn for the construction costs. That includes, by the way, a big contingency [£14bn]. As we demonstrated with the Olympic Games, we can deliver these big projects actually sometimes under budget”.
And it seems the UK construction industry agrees with him according to a recent letter to the Telegraph from the heads of the Association for Consulting and Engineering, Arup Group, Atkins UK, Balfour Beatty, Kier Group, Laing O’Rourke, Mott MacDonald Group, and Skanska UK.
In it they state, “We gladly accept the challenge of completing Phase One of HS2 on schedule – and for less than the Government’s target of £17.16 billion. We applaud the Government’s support for investment in infrastructure and in particular HS2, which addresses a looming capacity crunch on rail and road networks.”
The letter went on to suggest that HS2 will inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers and will create jobs and support economic growth. In response to claims that the whole project is set to go massively over budget, the industry heads said, “Funding secured for HS2 rightly includes a contingency – a responsible way to plan a project on this scale. Yet artificially inflated figures circulated by opponents recently in no way represent the outcome we expect.”