HS2 | Former chief advisor Cummings faces questions over ‘garbage’ claims

Posted on 22 June 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings is facing questions over whether he withheld details of cost hikes relating to land acquisitions on HS2 which may have influenced the Johnson’s decision to press ahead with the project.
The latest revelations come a week after Cumming’s allegations that the prime minister was given “garbage data” and “absurdities” ahead of the decision to give contractors a Notice to Proceed on the project.

Former Euston landowner Michael Gross has said that he provided Cummings with details of cost increases and information alleging fraud on the project in late 2019 and 2020 on the understanding that it would be presented to the prime minister. Documents included affidavits from former HS2 staff, as well as independent cost estimates stating that the line would cost £106.5bn in 2015 prices. However, it is not known whether the former chief advisor ever relayed the information onto the prime minister.

The details of the land cost dossier come after Cumming’s accused Johnson of basing his HS2 decision on “garbage data” and “absurdities”.

Speaking to NCE, Gross said: “During the time that Cummings was chief of staff at Downing Street, I kept him fully aware of all the information I had gathered which demonstrates the billions lost due to fraud, incompetence and dishonesty throughout the HS2 process.

“Cummings has clearly used my information in his latest attempts to discredit the prime minister. What the public deserves to know is did Cummings ever share what I gave him with the prime minister? If he did, then it is clear that the prime minister made the decision to proceed with HS2 for purely political reasons, setting aside the billions lost due to fraud, incompetence and dishonesty.

“If, however, Cummings did not do his duty and merely retained my information for his own use, then Cummings must stand accused of a serious dereliction of his duty.”

The allegations against Cummings come after the former chief advisor penned an attack on HS2 . In it Cummings claims that Johnson “blew” the decision on the project after reviewing “garbage model/graph” information supplied to him.

In the blog, Cummings said that in January last year the prime minister “was presented with ‘evidence’ showing exponential increase in HS2 demand – demand that, if taken seriously, would have meant the entire country either travelling on HS [high speed] rail” and “building HS3/HS4/HS5 in even shorter periods after 2040” was viable.

Cummings wrote: “A garbage model/graph was fed to a PM making a [more than] £100bn decision (which he blew despite us pointing out such absurdities in the ‘evidence’).”

Earlier this year HS2 reached a settlement with Gross over the value of his properties in Euston. The properties had originally been valued at up to £700M, however the land was initially given a value by HS2 of £200M, leading to legal claim of £500M. The value of the settlement has not been disclosed.

It is not known whether any of the documents supplied by Gross were passed on to the PM. According to the Department for Transport (DfT) a search of their systems failed to find any reference of Cummings passing on such information officially to the DfT.

The Cabinet Office has been contacted for comment. The DfT was unable to comment. Cummings has also been contacted for comment.

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