The Department for Transport must set out a long-term strategy for the next 30 years for UK transport infrastructure, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended today.
In its report Lessons from major infrastructure programmes, the committee said they did not believe there was a “clear strategic plan” for major transport infrastructure programmes.
As a result, the report said it is “unclear how the department makes decisions about which programmes to prioritise for investment”.
PAC chair Margaret Hodge said: “Investment in major rail infrastructure programmes takes a long time and costs a lot of money.
“It is therefore hugely important to ask the right questions and make properly informed judgements on priorities. Yet the government takes decisions without a clear strategic plan.”
The report also raised concerns over whether the department has learnt from previous projects such as the High Speed 1 project, which set out plans to regenerate Ebbsfleet in Kent that are only now being realised. The report recommended that DfT apply the lessons learnt to improve value for money on other projects.
“The lessons from Ebbsfleet show that, without proper planning and active intervention, regeneration and the expected substantial economic benefits have not been delivered, despite High Speed 1 construction being completed seven years ago,” Hodge said.
“We should not repeat these mistakes with HS2,” she added.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “It is the role of the PAC to ask questions that major projects like HS2 need to address as they move from planning to delivery.
“This scrutiny is welcome. The report sets out some of those questions in detail and acknowledges that progress is being made.”
He added: “With Sir David Higgins as chairman of HS2 Ltd, we are fully focused on keeping costs down and are determined that this vital part of the government’s long-term economic plan will be built on time and within budget.
“As the project moves forward towards construction we will continue to address the issues raised by the PAC, and in particular value for money.”
Other recommendations set out in the report include setting out plans to control the use of contingency funds to avoid hiding cost overruns, working with industry and other departments to understand gaps in industry capacity and setting out who is responsible for ensuring infrastructure benefits are realised.