ANTOINETTE Sandbach has hit out at a ‘scandalous waste of money’ by HS2 Ltd after the firm announced the project could be £22 billion over budget.

The MP for Eddisbury told the Guardian that she questions whether the project is the ‘right solution’ – and whether a simpler scheme could have been thought up.

It comes after Allan Cook, chairman of HS2 Ltd, revealed last week that the project could cost as much as £78 billion – rather than the £56 billion previously expected.

The high-speed railway could also be delayed by seven years, meaning it would only be fully operational by 2040.

“I think there has been a scandalous waste of money in HS2,” Ms Sandbach said.

“We see them sending dozens of people up to the constituency who cannot answer the questions that they are supposed to answer, and I have seen so much waste.

“HS2 had so much potential to bring lots of benefits to the area, but the way in which they have dealt with my constituents and me has turned me against the project.

“And with a staggering over £22 billion rise in cost, I wonder whether it’s the right solution at the moment.”

Ms Sandbach welcomed the Government’s announcement of an independent review into HS2 last month – a move that could see parts or all of the railway scrapped if they are not deemed to be value for money.

Last November, she told the House of Commons that HS2 Ltd was ‘refusing to deliver’ on a promise to provide Eddisbury residents with sufficient information on the Wimboldsley rolling stock depot and nearby viaducts.

Asked whether she thought there was a problem with the project itself or the people running it, she added: “I think both.

“I don’t know if it was necessary to have such a complicated train – and we should have perhaps looked at running a different track alongside the existing West Coast Mainline.

“But I have seen staggering inefficiency and incompetence, and a lack of understanding of how it has blighted many of my constituents’ lives. I have been standing up and fighting for them.”

The announcement of HS2 going over budget was revealed in a ‘stocktake’ report by Mr Cook, which will be taken into account as part of the independent review.

His report still suggests HS2 has its benefits, and makes seven recommendations on how to make the project work – including continuing to challenge costs and find efficiencies.

HS2 Ltd says that the cost increases have been caused by challenging ground conditions in Phase 1 – between London and Birmingham – and the complexity of the programme, while cost and schedule changes on the rest of the project take into account lessons learnt.

A spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: “The report by our chairman Allan Cook examines the comprehensive and far-reaching benefits of HS2 for the country, which are more significant than those previously taken into account. It also sets out a rigorous cost and schedule range for delivery of the programme.

“The assessment makes clear that HS2 remains a compelling strategic answer for Britain’s future transport needs, relieving overcrowding and congestion on our roads and railways, and reducing the carbon footprint of the UK. It will drive economic growth and regeneration in our regions, and bring Britain closer together.

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“HS2 Ltd takes its responsibilities to be a good neighbour very seriously. We have regular two-way contact with residents along the route of the new railway including through a programme of community events, at which we have engaged with over 17,400 people so far this year.

“We will continue to work with communities to explain our proposals, better understand local concerns and look at how we can lessen the impacts of the project.”