Looking down the tracks at an HS2 station CGI

British high-speed rail project HS2 accused of huge fraud

The HS2 project accused of fraud and coming off the rails HS2 Ltd

Britain’s beleaguered high-speed rail project HS2 has been accused of scandalous levels of fraud and mismanagement of funds amid soaring costs and government cut backs. The line, originally intended to connect much of the country, has been reduced to little more than a shuttle between west London and Birmingham. Now, newspaper The Sunday Times in the UK has published an extensive report, claiming that whistleblowers, worried by the situation, were quietly bought off and offered generous redundancy terms.

Allegations of a cover-up at HS2 have been made public in an extensive newspaper investigation over the weekend. The Sunday Times in the UK has published allegations from whistleblowers that say the UK parliament was kept in the dark regarding the genuine expenses associated with HS2. They say that elected members were therefore unaware of the true (higher) costs when voting on legislation pertinent to the project. One of the outraged insiders went so far as to label the affair as a “fraud against the British people”.

The whistleblowers from HS2 Ltd, the company overseeing the high-speed rail project, assert that senior management orchestrated efforts to downplay the true costs of HS2. These insiders claim they were instructed to deceive about the financial position, with the intention of securing continued funding worth billions.

HS2 vehemently denies any wrongdoing

Speaking to radio media in the UK, respected travel journalist Simon Calder said that he was astonished to read that whistleblowers were being routinely paid off (made redundant) rather than having their concerns issued. He also said that the exposé in the Sunday Times newspaper quoted officials at the HS2 company despairing over new ways to down play the cost of the project. As costs began to escalate, high-ranking officials purportedly resorted to extreme measures, including document shredding and the dismissal of dissenting voices, to shield the project from collapsing under the weight of its financial burden.

Looking from above at HS2 ventilation hole above a tunnel
When you are in a hole… HS2 is accused of keeping whistleblowers quiet – but not of throwing them down a ventilation shaft

These Sunday Times revelations are likely to unfold into a vast scandal. It threatens to deliver a damaging blow to the credibility of the UK government’s oversight, and raises pressing questions about the stewardship of public funds. The gravity of these allegations has prompted an internal probe by HS2’s dedicated fraud unit, tasked with delving into claims of a deliberate concealment of the project’s true costs. In response, HS2 vehemently denies any wrongdoing, asserting its commitment to transparency and accountability.

Concerted effort to prevent scrutiny

However, despite a vigorous and active media communications unit, pumping out daily news about the project, HS2 has repeatedly been accused of failing in its communications with individuals and communities affected by the vast civil engineering project, or to provide compensation fast enough. Back in 2021, a BBC investigation found that there were shortcomings over the way HS2 responded to concerns from communities along the route. In one individual case, the company was found to be seriously damaging peoples’ lives.”HS2’s repeated maladministration had a devastating impact on the complainant and their family,” said Rob Behrens, who remains in post as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

CGI aerial view of HS2 viaducts over a river in rural England
Many rivers to cross. HS2 reaches a watershed with revelations about the financial stewardship of the project revealed in a Uk newspaper

Long term outspoken critic of the project, Lord Tony Berkeley, who is a former chair of the industry’s Rail Freight Group, has often accused HS2 Ltd of committing cover-ups and fraud. Back in 2019, in a speech to the House of Lords Grand Committee, he raised the issue of whistleblowers being hushed up and paid off, and claimed that a former chair of the HS2 company signed off the estimates of cost for the project, knowing they were incorrect. “The evidence of cost overruns, cover-ups and, I must say, fraud and worse are rampant”, he said. “I fear that there is a concerted effort by officials and successive ministers to prevent scrutiny of the costs and programme, to refuse to discuss ways to reduce costs and generally to batten down the hatches.”

Shocking waste of taxpayers’ money

Earlier this year, an insider, frustrated by the situation, told us that work already carried out was being “trashed” rather than mothballed on sections of the line where progress was in doubt. Subsequently, the government did cancel much of the project, abandoning the route north of Birmingham to Manchester. As far back as 2017 the project has been under scrutiny for irregularities on a massive scale. Six years ago, the the National Audit Office, the official spending watchdog, revealed that almost two million pounds (2.4 million euro) had been spent on unauthorised redundancy payouts to staff working for HS2 Ltd.

The company offered staff compulsory and voluntary redundancy schemes at enhanced terms, giving higher cash payments than the levels authorised by the Department for Transport (DfT). At the time, the Commons Public Accounts Committee issued a verdict, describing the payments as “a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money”. Costs have soared on the project, with some estimates putting the final bill in excess of 100 billion pounds (117 billion euro). If only they knew then what they might know now, that committee may have reserved its superlatives for later.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

27 comments op “British high-speed rail project HS2 accused of huge fraud”

Brian Roberts|23.10.23|17:22

CrossRail went massively over budget, repeatedly, huge bonuses to senior managers before for deadlines, large contractor salaries… yet that’s a 100% purely London project. Can’t let the Queen Elizabeth line die can we?


To state the obvious. Absolute theft from the taxpayer, and exactly designed to to this. Criminal.

David Knowles|23.10.23|22:26

So not what most normal people would consider fraud, just under reporting project estimated costs to get it past the penny pinching Tories scum who currently supposedly running the country.

Nick Grice|23.10.23|23:33

So they’ve spent £106 billion – say 100 new hospitals at a billion each – just to get from London to Birmingham 25 minutes quicker than the existing line – what a scandalous waste of money – remind me again what the Cameron/Osbourne austerity years were for? who are these people and why did they never listen to anyone with common sense who said it was a stupid idea from the outset – see you at the ballot box.

David Rippin|24.10.23|00:00

Where has my previous comment gone ???

Justice League|24.10.23|00:04

If the govt was serious about costs : a construction company from China would have completed the line at speed and below costs.
Sadly, there are many (racism?) who feel that China is behind UK. While China has completed stupendous projects.


Maybe missing money went to some other country to fund some war 🤷‍♂️

David Rippin|24.10.23|00:37

From David … At about 10.15 tonight, 23rd October 2023, I sent a “full box” comment which began “okay so that’s HS2 sorted …” etc the message does not appear but my name and e.mail address does … however, a second brief “Where has my previous message …” etc does appear … ?
Railtech data controller, please locate and display my original main message DR

David Rippin|24.10.23|00:57

From what I have seen of Conservative political conduct over 50+years of adult perception, it appears that formal training in methods of fraud and deception are preordained requisites of senior ministerial office within any Tory legislature … integrity and free speech curtailment notwithstanding.

Rob Lawson|24.10.23|01:02

I’m surprised that a credible publication like this one has fallen for this utter BS propaganda. The second Barking Lord Berkeley is mentioned, you know it’s going to be an anti-HS2 puff piece.

stewart montgomery|24.10.23|01:14

Just imagine if they had spent £100bn on upgrading ECML, ECML. They would still have been able to update the busiest line in the country the Brighton main line to 4 tracks (something that was planned before WW2 with half the traffic) beggars belief tbh but as usual with any government project it’s just a contractor cash cow to be milked to death. Shocking

Acleron Acleron|24.10.23|05:29

If this government had known HS2 was corrupt they would have kept it going.

Lawrence Hayward|24.10.23|09:05

HS2 was the idea of the Gordon Brown Labour Government and retained by the Conservative Liberal Democrats and should be considered as a very long term project, like they have in Japan and not built in a day. As it stands going just to Birmingham is a waste, so it has to be resurected and go all the way to Leeds to be viable and worth all the disruption so far. However since the project started,Covid has changed our working patterns and the use of Zoom may reduce the need for wk related travel.

edward hodson|24.10.23|09:58

A few weeks ago we travelled back to Stafford from Euston on a Saturday evening and arrived in Stafford 16minutes early. If that can be done now why do we need HS2

Iain Mac an Tàilleir|24.10.23|10:36

I don’t think HS2 in Britain was originally ‘intended to connect much of the country’. It was meant to link the southeast of the England region to a couple of destinations on the edge of northern England via the centre of the region. Not ‘much of the country’ at all.

Malcolm Fraser|24.10.23|16:05

For that sort of money they could have made rail travel free! Think what benefits that would bring to things like the volume of traffic on the roads and the associated pollution. It would have been a big step towards net zero well before 2050!

Kelly Jewell|24.10.23|16:36

Politicians are all corrupt, they really don’t care about the people of this country, ordinary hard working people should run this country not a bunch of public school toffs who wouldn’t know a hard day’s work, we all knew HS2 was a disaster and they have desicrated the land

David Smith|24.10.23|16:39

HS2 was a Central London land grab nothing more nothing less.

peter mckinley|24.10.23|19:27

Why is the vast majority of HS2 workers from India,Bangladesh and other foreign countries all have had training on machines and hardly any local people have had employment from it.
It’s all well payed so thats not an issue starting at around £16 per hour for just standing there,if the general public saw what goes on they would pull the plug on a complete waste of money project.
Just think what use the NHS could put this to what a mess this country is in and nobody seems bothered.

peter mckinley|24.10.23|19:37

HS2 is manned by foreign workers from India Bangladesh and elsewhere payed £16ph min.
They haven’t used hardly any local workers ,why is this money being wasted on people who want to commute between Birmingham and London so they can put house prices up all the way between the two places,it the most expensive shortest distance of travel in the world.
The world watches to see if were stupid enough to let the NHS fail and we end up with a ridiculously expensive rail track give your heads a shake.

Mark Hodson|24.10.23|19:40

What’s left to say?
My MP Saqib Bhatti is a lover of the project.
My biggest upset is that this will go ahead now anyway, regardless of what anyone says, the Government are being incredibly condescending about the taxpayers opinions.
My MP does listen, he talks back like you are a child, I’m 60. The arrogance of all involved is breathtaking.
Sue Hodson Balsall Common Cov

Tony HUGHES|24.10.23|21:40

It was always a gravy train for the corporate pals of the Tories. HS2 shows that the Conservative party is reverting to its original purpose which was to consolidate the wealth, power & privileges of the ruling 5% of UK.
Post-Brexit, the Tories cannot even provide the ‘crumbs off the table’ for the middle-class. HS2 and the covid corruption seems to suggest that they’re preparing to spend more time with their wallets.
and calling in favours when they’re voted out..

David E|24.10.23|23:51

I firmly believe and put on record here that the remaining section of HS2 between Euston and Birmingham, if it is ever delivered, will cost £200 billion and be delivered 10 years late. It should be completely stopped right here, right now.

Dave Sweet|25.10.23|07:49

The clue is in the name, CONServatives. Look at the COVID response by the CONServative government. Do we really expect any difference?

Robert Stephens|25.10.23|12:21

Not at all surprised by the Corruption Scandal news. Such large Taxpayer funded projects nearly always fail due to poor control and lack of leadership. At least three rotten Transport Ministers along the way signed off billions to go down the tubes. The NHS is beleaguered with the same stereotypes. Browns Labour Government started the rot, then successive administrations failed to stop it. Sadly part of the British Disease of many years standing.

Andrew McCann|25.10.23|14:45

There was no oversight because they don’t want any, was never to be a transport success, it was always to be a money making exercise- the spending is going to Conservative donors and Tory owned businesses. The plant they use – all new JCBs, Lexus 4×4 runaround’s. Audit the finances – it has gone to Millionaires Billionaires who own Tory government. They don’t care about our transport system, they don’t suffer living in the U.K. or they simply fly over us in their Biz jets and helicopters…

Gerry Patey|25.10.23|20:26

Lot of labourites complaining.
If Gordon Brown hadn’t sold off most of the gold reserves to balance the books at it’s lowest price ever we could have built HS2 to Edinburgh

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