Speaking on Sunday morning on the Marr show, the Right Honourable Christopher Stephen Grayling MP, the Secretary of State for Transport was asked why the budget for HS2 is once again being expanded from its original £40Bn with suggestions that it will rise to around £56Bn and that is before many of the details are available from certain parts of the route. The answer Mr Grayling gave was that the route through the Chilterns needed to be found. Its hardly reassuring that the man who today gets to sign off on the solution for airport expansion, potentially the most significant decision for several generations is claiming that the Chilterns were the problem when it came to his railway. The need for someone like Grayling to take responsibility for the failure to plan adequately and explain how part of this 16Bn rise includes £5Bn for inflation as though that could not have been anticipated a few years ago when costs where being predicted is vital. Yet Simon Kirby, the Chief Executive of HS2 who has just left the project to become CEO of Rolls Royce claimed in an interview that his experience delivering a major project “on time and to budget” would be applied at Rolls-Royce.
The political career of Chris Grayling is hardly a glittering one, he introduced and oversaw the debacle of Transforming Rehabilitation which has brought devastation to the work of probation services. Few people disagreed that the probation service needed some degree of reform, having grown over 100 years from a voluntary sector scheme into something way beyond its original roots. However through TR as it became known, Grayling forced through a range of decisions which were as damaging to the current (and recent) voluntary sector providers as they were to probation itself. The only agencies that have benefited are the large private sector agencies that lie behind so many of our public services such as G4S and SERCO. Grayling was also the Minister who tried to ban books from prisons as though education was a bad thing. Today he gets to announce the Governments response to the Davies review on Airport expansion, published in July 2015. Yet another project to add to his CV! No doubt his political advisers are already preparing a list of excuses and explanations if this proves to be a mistake!