50% slippage in timetable for Royal Assent

In June 2016 the National Audit Office produced a report on the progress of preparations for HS2. They considered the existing timetable to be unrealistic and also asked HS2 Ltd to revisit the programme schedule in order to increase confidence for delivery from 60 % to 80%.

As many will be aware, HS2 Ltd has been planning for some time to gain Royal Assent for its Hybrid Bill in December 2016. However an article in issue 811 of Rail magazine indicated that Royal Assent is now expected in “early 2017”. That is not a precise date and it has been suggested that this means early spring 2017.

Yet consultation documents produced in February 2011 indicated that Royal Assent was expected at “the beginning of 2015”. So there has been a two year slippage beyond a four year milestone, or to put it another way a 50% increase in time.

There are a number of HS2 tasks which cannot be started until Royal Assent has been granted. A delay of three or four months means that these tasks have to be rescheduled, and it means many other subsequent tasks will also have to be rescheduled to later dates.

The same consultation document referred to earlier also expected HS2 trains to be operational in 2026. That remains the target date for Phase One. So with a two year overrun of the consultation and legislative part of the project, is it likely that the construction and testing phase will be completed in two years less than originally planned? Some might consider it unkind to draw comparisons with the delays experienced on the Great Western electrification programme or some of the other rail electrification programmes.

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