HS2 officials burned through £300m in three years, before rail link given green light

HS2 Limited, the taxpayer funded company set up to develop the controversial high-speed rail link, has already spent more than £300m.

The company had spent £302m between January 2011 and October 2013. This is despite the rail line not being due for completion until 2026.

A study of the company’s spending, by the TaxPayers Alliance, found that spending levels had also ramped up, with over £170m spent in the first 10 months of 2013.

HS2 Ltd made 9,620 payments of £500 or more, including spending over £700 on iPad covers for staff iPads.

The firm also spent £1.2m of taxpayer money on external PR and parliamentary lobbying companies; £1.4m was paid to a branding company for “consultation event management”, and a further £10m was spent paying employment agencies for staff.

The expenditure is likely to fuel further calls for the government to abandon the scheme, which is currently forecast to cost £50bn.

The first phase of the project, which will connect London and Birmingham, is due to open in 2026, and will bring journey times down by 35 minutes. The second phase will connect the line to Leeds and Manchester.

The scheme is yet to gain parliamentary consent, and support remains tentative. Labour has said it could withdraw its support for the project if costs increase.

Jonathan Isaby, the chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said to the Telegraph: “It’s clear that bureaucrats in charge of delivering HS2 have embarked on a wasteful spending binge at taxpayers’ expense. Such lax spending controls are symptomatic of a rail project that is terrible value for money.”

Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, added: “We always knew that the amount of tax payers’ money being wasted on HS2 is staggering, but to see it thrown away so blatantly without the project having the go-ahead is a complete disgrace.”

But HS2 Ltd denied that the money had been wasted. Ben Ruse, its spokesman, said to the Telegraph: “HS2 Ltd remains fastidious in its determination to bear down on costs. HS2 will be delivered on budget and on time.

“We delivered well within our budget for 2012-2013 and we fully expect to do the same within the current financial year.”

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