UK lawmakers sound alarm on soaring costs of mega rail project

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LONDON, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- British lawmakers expressed alarm in a report on Wednesday about the soaring costs of the High Speed Two (HS2), the country's biggest infrastructure project since the World War II.

"HS2 is already one of the single most-expensive taxpayer-funded programs in the UK, but there's actually no clear end in sight in terms of the final cost, or even the final route," said Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons, the lower house of the British parliament.

"The project was plagued by a lack of planning and transparency from the start and there are many difficulties ahead," Hillier added.

HS2 will be Britain's second high-speed line, the first being High Speed One (HS1) which connects London to the Channel Tunnel. Work on Phase One of HS2 between London and Birmingham is currently under way. The plan is to continue with Phase Two to take the track to northern England.

"This project cannot simply keep sinking more taxpayer funds without greater clarity on the later phases," Hillier said.

Latest estimates have put the cost of the whole project at up to 98 billion pounds (134 billion U.S. dollars), almost double the original project cost of 55.7 billion pounds (76 billion U.S. dollars). Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, deputy chair of the committee, warned the cost could "could well exceed" the latest estimates.

"The increases in costs have dented public confidence, and the volume of complaints about disruption and environmental damage from construction is rising and expected to increase as the program progresses," the report warned.

The committee said HS2 Ltd has an opportunity to get on the front foot and engage with communities earlier and more successfully than it has done so far.

"DfT (British Department for Transport) and HS2 Ltd have been unable to tell the committee how they will ensure delivery of the range of benefits the government has promised to the people, communities and businesses along the route, including the creation of local jobs," said the report. Enditem

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