This month the High-speed rail international benchmarking study dated November 2016 was released. The findings come from an independent PwC investigation commissioned by former chancellor George Osborne in 2014. The review was finished in 2016 but its publication was delayed by two years.
The report spells out clearly that long term plans are what’s needed for efficient cost delivery of projects like HS2:
“There is a significant opportunity for the Government to unlock potential cost savings for future infrastructure projects through the development of a national infrastructure plan, and a specific high speed rail strategy”.
“[T]o unlock greater efficiencies for future infrastructure projects, Government must consider its ability to commit to a long term infrastructure and high speed rail plan. … This would enable the UK supply chain to consider longer-term investments in people and technology, partnerships and potentially encourage a greater degree of vertical integration across design and construction, as has been observed with a number of European high speed rail suppliers.”
And so the report recommends that:
“UK Government should create a more integrated strategic national infrastructure plan including high speed and conventional rail with committed spend targets that would ideally command parliamentary support across parliamentary cycles.”
We couldn’t agree more, and that’s why we prepared Beyond HS2 earlier this year.
The benchmarking study concluded that projected costs/km for HS2 Phase 2 were higher than international comparators and set out some helpful areas where savings could be made. These include strengthening and enlarging construction sector businesses and increasing their investment in capital equipment. These are matters of national industrial strategy rather than procurement. It is disappointing that this report’s release was unnecessarily delayed, making it harder to ensure the potential budget savings it identified are in fact realised.