HS2 boss and MPs joust over compensation for 'completely destroyed' roads


Buckinghamshire Council has pledged to hold HS2 Ltd to account for damage to its highway network from HGVs helping build the high-speed rail line.

The authority is hoping to secure compensation for damage to its network and has the support of a local MP, Greg Smith, Conservative MP for Buckingham, who had a lively exhange with HS2 Ltd's executive chair, Sir Jon Thompson at the Transport Select Committee last week.

Mr Smith questions Sir Jon about roads in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire and said these local roads ‘were never built to take that sort of weight’ and had been ‘completely destroyed'.

Sir Jon responded by outlining the specific financial compensation agreement HS2 Ltd had with Buckinghamshire: 'We have agreed with the council an annual deterioration fund; we are putting significant funding—£3.95m—into road safety; there is a highways damage claim process, which paid out a further £1m last year; and there is an outstanding commitment that, at the end of construction, we will go back to the local authority and compensate it further for any other damage that can be attributed to HS2.'

However, Mr Smith suggested the compensation process was too slow, arguing that Buckinghamshire had so far only been offered £93,000 which ‘barely does five metres of road resurfacing’.

Sir Jon replied: ‘There seems to be little point right now in resurfacing roads that lorries are going to drive over.’

The MP retorted: ‘But the point is that the roads are dangerous now. They are like a mogul run on a ski slope, or the surface of Mars. They are clearly dangerous. People’s cars are being damaged on a daily basis.’

In reply, Sir John said he was ‘happy to commit to looking at it, without providing any promises’.

Steven Broadbent, Buckinghamshire Council’s cabinet member for transport told Transport Network: ‘The HS2 construction project is causing considerable disruption and damage to our already strained road network in Buckinghamshire.

'We work hard to hold HS2 to account and have lobbied both HS2 and the Department for Transport to seek suitable compensation payments for the damage caused to our roads by the high numbers of HS2 HGV movements across the county.

‘The council has been extremely frustrated with the limited level of funding provided to date but we are actively engaged with HS2 to make tangible progress and secure funding for both short and long-term repairs. We will also hold HS2 to account to deliver on their long-term commitment to compensate for any outstanding damage at the end of the project.’

During the same session, Jack Brereton, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, asked Sir Jon about concerns that HS2 Ltd had built roads and then handed them over to local authorities without providing documentary evidence that the proper process for road safety audits had been followed. 

The committee mentioned cases in Buckamshire and Staffordshire, where the concerns had been raised.

He added: ‘When we went on a committee visit to Buckinghamshire, we learned of an example of a road where that has not been properly carried out and there are safety concerns. When the highway authority came to adopt the road, further changes had to be made to ensure that the road and overbridge were safe.’

He added: 'The concerns are that the county council should be the overseeing organisation for safety audits of roads within its network. It should not be HS2 Ltd that performs the overseeing organisation role.'

Sir Jon said he did not accept that HS2 Ltd had not properly followed the process, adding that he thought the relevant documents had been provided in relation to the Staffordshire case, but he again agreed to ‘have a look at’ the issue.

Cllr Broadbent told Transport Network: ‘Any roads built or repaired by HS2 must be to the usual safety and quality requirements of the council as the highway authority, and accord to national standards for road design and construction.’

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