HS2 Ltd committed “fraud on the British people,’ says whistleblower

Economy Law and Justice Policy & Politics

A former colonel turned senior HS2 whistleblower has called the high speed rail project a “fraud against the British people.”

Senior HS2 managers instructed staff to keep politicians in the dark over the true costs of the project, so that MPs would continue funding the private company running the project, according to decorated former army lieutenant colonel Andrew Bruce.

Another whistleblower, Stephen Cresswell – former senior cost analyst at HS2 – said a “criminal offence” has been committed, “namely fraud”

Staff who did raise their concerns were fired, said Bruce who was an HS2 senior official in 2016 when he calculated the cost of property purchases for the railway line far exceeded HS2 Ltd’s £2.8 billion official estimate – by £2 billion.

The findings – that HS2 could not be delivered for its £55.7 billion budget – could have derailed the project which faced a crucial Commons vote a few months after Bruce compiled his report.

He was scheduled to present his findings to the decision makers at the department for transport and HS2 bosses. Half an hour before the meeting, Bruce was fired.

“My work was never seen again,” Bruce told BBC News in August 2019, three years later. “It was completely removed from the body of knowledge of HS2. It was as if I had never existed.

“I was dismissed to stop the figures that had been produced from going to the Department for Transport.”

Four years later, Bruce spoke to the Sunday Times about HS2, commenting: “This was a fraud against the British people.”.

The newspaper has conducted a three-month long investigation into the scandal, analysing HS2 files and documents and interviewing civil servants, politicians and company insiders.

HS2’s internal fraud unit is investigating the allegations that HS2 deliberately covered up the cost overruns, the Sunday Times reports, adding, HS2 denies any wrongdoing.

Byline Times reported three months ago (July) that Bruce, HS2’s former head of property planning and performance, said the six months to April 2016 “marked a conscious suppression of reality and a contortion of the truth designed to secure parliamentary approval for the controversial rail scheme.”

HS2 Ltd is publicly funded but operates as a private company. Its chief executive reports to the rail minister and transport secretary while HS2 staff work alongside DfT officials.

HS2 Ltd was established in 2009 by Lord Adonis, the then Labour transport secretary. Since then it has had four chief executives and seven chairmen.

Its chief executive is the highest paid civil servant in the land, raking in £676,000 a year.

Its chief financial officer is Britain’s third highest paid civil servant, earning £513,000.

In the four years to 2022, 43 employees were paid a combined £48 million by HS2 Ltd.

Earlier this month, prime minister Rishi Sunak confirmed weeks of speculation when he announced the Birmingham-Manchester leg of the high speed line would be scrapped, saying the money saved would be better spent on other transport projects.

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