'The decision to approve the HS2 high-speed rail project was based on cost estimates that were hundreds of millions of pounds too low, a former senior staff member of the company has claimed.
Doug Thornton told the BBC’s Panorama programme the company had misled MPs about a project whose budget spiralled from an original estimate of £34bn to £56bn amid leaked Treasury worries that the eventual cost will be more than £100bn.
Thornton said he was “appalled” that inaccurate estimates about purchasing land needed for the project could be put forward in a “such a loose and slapdash fashion”.
“There was a gap of almost 100% in terms of the wrong numbers of properties that the organisation had not budgeted for,” he told the programme, which is due to be broadcast on Monday night.
Thornton said HS2’s management ignored warnings about the faulty estimates, before he left his post. Another whistleblower told Panorama that HS2 was using higher estimates about the cost of land than MPs had when they voted to approve the project.
HS2 denied it misled parliament and insisted it followed the correct procedures for updating MPs on the changing budget.
Last week, Sir Terry Morgan, the chairman of both Crossrail and Hs2, resigned amid anger about cost overruns at Crossrail.
The HS2 chief executive, Mark Thurston, told Panorama: “I’m not worried about overspending. I’m confident we’ve got a budget we can stand by.”
The government has vowed to press on with HS2 despite fears about rising costs.'
Read more: HS2 misled MPs about cost of high-speed rail project - whistleblower
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