Mace chief executive is also on the board of Northern Powerhouse Partnership


Source: Shutterstock

A think tank chaired by former chancellor George Osborne is set to carry out a sympathetic appraisal of HS2, parallel to a formal review of the scheme headed up by former HS2 boss Doug Oakervee.

The official panel drawn up by the Department for Transport, which features HS2 critic Lord Berkeley as deputy chairman, will report on a range of areas – including cost, programme and benefits – by the end of November.

But now Northern Powerhouse Partnership has said it will conduct its own review “to ensure a voice for the north is heard”.

Members of the group’s board include Mark Reynolds, chief executive of Mace, Dave Newton, director at Arup, and Jonathan Moore, Manchester and northern powerhouse city region executive at Arcadis.

Public sector members include the head of Manchester and Sheffield city councils, Sir Richard Leese and Julie Dore respectively, and the chair of Transport for the North, John Cridland – also on the Oakervee review.

A source at HS2 said: “This latest review is good news for us. Boris [Johnson] is worried about shedding votes in the north if he scraps HS2 – and Osborne’s think tank can press the point.”

The announcement from Northern Powerhouse Partnership comes as its chair is accused of knowing HS2 has been overbudget for several years. 

In 2016 a letter sent from then transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to Osborne, seen by the BBC, admitted the first phase of the rail line was set to cost at least £1bn more than its £24bn funding envelope.

And a report written by PwC, also seen by the BBC, said “fundamental parts” of the £2.8bn estimated cost of acquiring land along the London-Birmingham route were calculated in an “ad-hoc manner”.

A report by the House of Commons Library, published in June, found figures published by the National Audit Office and the Department for Transport at the time of the 2015 spending review suggested the total cost of the project would be £64.9bn.