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APM responds to Prime Minister's announcement scrapping northern leg of HS2

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On 4 October, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the second stage of the HS2 rail link project between Birmingham and Manchester will be scrapped, with the £36 billion cost being earmarked for other transport projects around the country.

In response to the announcement, Andrew Baldwin Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Association for Project Management (APM), said: 

“Sadly, this project has been plagued with uncertainty since the outset and the original scope has been changed multiple times. Major projects of this nature need political and economic stability to work – investors need to trust that their investment will be worthwhile.

“Ultimately, you can fix projects by rescoping and reassessing; you can’t fix them by scrapping them. There was a need for HS2, and that need remains, irrespective of the other projects mentioned in the speech.

“We are of course pleased to see this money will be retained to use on other major transport projects and look forward to concrete proposals on those, particularly Network North. But we had a concrete plan to deliver a major project that would have improved capacity between Manchester, Birmingham and London. We now have uncertainty, speculation and a list of projects that may or may not get spades in the ground before the next general election.

“And investor enthusiasm will be low, so the Government needs to be clear on what new projects they’re funding, the scope and timescales involved, and ensure that they won’t be cancelled when the going gets tough politically.

“As the chartered body for the project profession, we acknowledge the importance of learning from setbacks and disruptions. There will be lessons from the political side of HS2 that we must learn for future projects.”



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  1. Mark Carter
    Mark Carter 05 October 2023, 06:12 PM

    Having never led an infrastructure / civil engineering project and certainly nothing on a nationally important scale like this, there's nothing I can add from an expert practitioner perspective but I would like to know whether the principle of business case justification has been at play here? You can't save projects by cancelling them but you can cancel them if you think the business case is no longer justified. Is there any comment on this important aspect of Project Governance from the project team or APM? Is there any bias in the business case that could warrant some learning for the many projects that are hoped to be funded from the redirection of investment?

  2. Sheilina Somani
    Sheilina Somani 06 October 2023, 08:14 AM

    Thank you Andrew, an apt summary, especially '... you can't fix projects by scrapping them...' There's so much wrapped around this cessation- stakeholder impact, socio-economic impact, broken commitments. The needs for links between major cities remains. Future projects may consider the importance of starting where major need exists - in the North and West of the UK. There are so many stories of lost hamlets, farms, ground preparation costs (clearly sunk costs now). It would be good to see lessons applied instead of just documented. Here's hoping.

  3. Ashok Singha
    Ashok Singha 06 October 2023, 07:50 PM

    Looking at this my first impression is, that this is totally political of the worst kind. Why is it that the south always gets what they want and anything past the midlands always suffers when the road gets tuff? Our government has been criticized in the past for its focus on infrastructure projects in the south of England, and the scrapping of the northern legs will likely benefit wealthy landowners in the south, not to mention the problems now made for the north of the UK. The benefits and business case still hold true and strong for HS2. That's the priority point I wish to make. BUT does scrapping part of the project now make the whole HS2 business case unviable? Has anybody done the analysis? Will the return on benefits cover the loss made by scrapping the other northern legs of the HS2? If not then HS2 has suddenly become a 'white elephant' project. Secondly, if the business case still holds, why scrap the other parts? Why not just postpone those parts, we can always restart, when better times come. That's an acceptable outcome to me as a taxpayer. I can understand higher priority projects can parachute in, but to scrap a perfectly good phase with a healthy business case and benefits that will deliver for many 10's of years is very painful for me for such a prominent project that is known globally around the world. It is worth noting that the government has not yet released a full explanation for its decision, but there are a number of possible factors, including The rising cost of living and the need to prioritize other public services. The government's commitment to net zero by 2050 and the potential environmental impact of HS2. The fact that HS2 has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, but the Business case has held true. Scrapping this part of the project just because they need the funds for something else, even if the benefits and business case hold true, does not cut it with me as a client (Taxpayer, and a potential user of the product HS2). I need more information. What has changed to make HS2 not viable suddenly? If our government, can't comfortably respond, then I am afraid the conservatives have not learned anything, and are making the UK look incompetent. As an APM professional, I am saddened to think we have such people leading us and wasting so much TAX money. Why start the HS2 project and throw so much money down the drain? I need a viable logical explanation. I am infuriated not knowing why and how they came to the decision. Will we ever find out? It is important to note that the decision to scrap the northern legs of HS2 was a political one (in my view), and it does not reflect on the competence of the project managers and engineers who have worked on HS2. I have no stake in HS2, but I have a stake in ensuring our profession is respected. I do not want any shade on our talented Project Managers and engineers who work (and worked) on HS2. This is a bad day for our procession. Let's hope APM can dig further to see why the other arm of the track was scrapped. Ashok