High-Speed Controversy: HS2 Under Scrutiny in Public Accounts Committee Session

In the latest episode of financial scrutiny, Quentin Letts reports on Dame Bernadette Kelly, the Whitehall mandarin overseeing HS2, appearing before the public accounts committee.

The session delves into the concerns surrounding the high-speed rail project’s escalating costs and recent controversies.

Dame Bernadette’s Mysterious Injuries and HS2 Interrogation:

Arriving with a crutch and a plastered arm, Dame Bernadette Kelly sparks speculation about the cause of her injuries.

Quentin Letts humorously explores scenarios ranging from construction mishaps to a hypothetical encounter with Lord Adonis, the advocate of the now-affected Manchester leg of HS2.

The public accounts committee, led by Dame Meg Hillier, subjects Dame Bernadette and a contingent of HS2 executives to thorough questioning.

Rapid-Fire Conversations and High-Speed Rail Dynamics:

Dame Meg Hillier, known for her rapid speech, engages in a fast-paced dialogue with Dame Bernadette and Sir Jon Thompson, the new chairman of HS2.

Letts amusingly likens their conversation to listening to Pinky & Perky, drawing a connection to the high-speed rail theme.

The velocity of their discussion prompts thoughts about the potential challenges faced by HS2 staff in their daily operations.

Financial Strategies and Leadership Changes at HS2:

The discussion shifts to cost-cutting measures as Sir Jon Thompson outlines plans to hire new executives and create committees to address financial challenges.

Letts wittily critiques the public sector’s tendency to solve problems with the recruitment of more personnel.

The departure of former HS2 civil servant Mark Thurston is humorously portrayed, leaving behind only his trilby, false moustache, and a part-nibbled slice of tipsy cake.

Sir John’s Streamlining Efforts and Financial Jargon:

Sir Jon Thompson’s efforts to streamline executive governance and improve financial risk modeling are highlighted.

Mark Francois queries ways to save money at HS2, prompting Sir John’s explanations, delivered with a touch of railway humor.

The introduction of a ‘chief railway officer’ is playfully suggested as ‘The Thin Controller,’ met with a less-than-amused response from Sir John.

Dame Bernadette’s Whitehall Language and Railway Terms:

Dame Bernadette Kelly’s communication in Whitehall jargon becomes a point of humor, with Letts playfully likening her to a public announcement at Paddington station.

Future Projections and Concerns:

The session touches on the expected completion timeline of HS2, set between 2029 and 2033.

Humorous exchanges arise as Dame Meg wonders about the longevity of committee members.

Greg Smith raises concerns about individuals reclaiming land seized by HS2, prompting responses from the HS2 representatives.


Quentin Letts concludes by highlighting the toothy-sucking reactions from the HS2 team, particularly Mr. Over (playfully dubbed Mr. Over Budget), expressing the duty to protect taxpayers.

Dame Bernadette maintains a composed demeanor as she claims her remit is the responsible management of public money.

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