“We will increasingly need to be able to pay market rates,” she said. “This is not a traditional civil service activity: building a £17bn project, we are competing for people who could be out in the Middle East delivering projects, so increasingly, we do need to be able to pay market rates, and that’s one of the discussions we’re having at the moment.”
“We’re going through discussions at the moment with the Treasury and with the Cabinet Office to ensure that, going forward, we do have the freedoms that we will need as a construction company,” she added.
“The original justification for setting us up as a company was to recognise that we would need, growing over time, more freedoms and more distance from government to really be able to deliver High Speed 2 efficiently,” she explained.
Munro also admitted that there have been problems in developing the business case for HS2, but said the problems were caused by using the standard Treasury methodology. “This is a standard approach for transport infrastructure and transport projects, but it doesn’t really capture all of the benefits of a transformational project like High Speed 2,” she argued.
“By focusing initially on using that standard appraisal methodology, we spent not enough time really demonstrating the wider benefits that High Speed 2 could bring.”
The line’s ability to regenerate northern cities isn’t “captured in the standard methodology,” she added.
See also: Interview: Alison Munro