26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Secretary concealed rail overruns

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The United Kingdom Department for Transport (DfT) has denied its Permanent Secretary, Bernadette Kelly (pictured) broke the Civil Service Code of Conduct by concealing cost overruns in the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail network.

However, Ms Kelly has admitted she did not tell Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that she knew HS2 was likely to go over budget.

Ms Kelly found out in March last year that the high speed rail project, linking London with cities in the Midlands and the North, would likely go over its £55.7 billion ($A110.3 billion) budget, but did not tell the committee at a May 2019 session.

When confronted with this information by the committee, Ms Kelly said she had been “quite careful” with her words at the previous appearance and that she wasn’t obliged to tell the committee about any internal cost estimates.

Chair of the PAC, Meg Hillier said Ms Kelly had “sailed close to the wind” and almost broke the Civil Service Code of Conduct.

A DfT spokesperson said Ms Kelly had done nothing wrong and that the Department was developing strategies during the period in question to stick to the official budget.

“The Permanent Secretary has acted fully in accordance with the Civil Service Code at all times,” the spokesperson said.

HS2 is now expected to cost more than £100 billion ($A198 billion) to build.

London, 16 March 2020

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