The head of the National Audit Office (NAO) has said HS2 is close to a point where it would be difficult to cancel the project, despite delays and concerns that it is significantly over its £56bn budget.
Sir Amyas Morse (pictured) told the BBC on Sunday: ‘There is a point where there’s not much point in thinking you can go back. We’ve just said that in our report on Crossrail.
‘Are we at that point on HS2? It’s difficult for me to say. It might be that we still haven’t quite crossed the Rubicon on it but pretty soon now we will have sunk so much in buying land, building track and so forth that it will be very difficult not to at least go to Birmingham.'
He added: ‘I think that for someone to pull HS2 now, we’d have to be in a lot of economic trouble.’
Sir Amyas, who leaves the NAO at the end of May after a 10-year term, also criticised ministers more generally for their focus on big ticket projects with unrealistic budgets.
Ask why ministers’ plans for large projects so often go over time and over budget, he said: ‘In politics, people really like to talk in bright primary colours and big concepts because they’re looking to get attention.
‘I always think of them as like fiddler crabs, trying to get attention on the beach by waving their claws about. So what they want to do is talk about is something that is big and expensive and very, very important.
‘But the problem with that, allowing that to be translated into something that’s practically feasible and not incredibly risky means you probably have to divide it down to about 20% of what you first thought of, to have something that’s really doable and practical.’