Local commuters have blasted government "bean counters" claiming their HS2 decisions are trashing benefits for Watford.

Yesterday (February 7), the Parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC) released a report stating that building HS2 between London and Birmingham but not extending the line to Manchester will be “very poor value for money”.

Both the Watford Rail Users Group (WRUG) and the Watford-St Albans Rail User Group (Abfly) gave submissions to the MPs' committee. They argued that “the primary objective for any scheme must be the needs of passengers” and added that this was “something which the bean counters at the Treasury seem to have overlooked”.

The withering report highlighted the “impacts on other rail projects dependent on the cancelled phases”.

Watford’s commuter groups were hopeful HS2 as originally planned would have boosted the number of trains stopping at Watford Junction and other local stations, by providing more pathways and a larger Euston.

Currently, the line through Watford has long distance passengers, freight trains to the north, and local commuter services “squeezed” onto “one of the most congested lines in Britain”, they said.

Watford Observer: A tunnel has been built near to Old Oak Common in west London.A tunnel has been built near to Old Oak Common in west London. (Image: PA)

The PAC committee was also apparently “highly sceptical” over whether the Department for Transport (DfT) will be able to attract the private investment needed for the planned London terminus at Euston.

Abfly’s Peter Brooks told the Watford Observer: "Abbey line and Watford Junction rail users will not see any material benefits from HS2 in terms of frequency and connectivity of existing services, or an improved Euston Station, which already suffers from overcrowding at times, unless HS2 has the previously proposed phases north of Birmingham and it is vital that it is completed through to Euston."

Robin Hall, from WRUG, added: “The lack of a plan to use private finance for Euston and the need to decide soon on continuing the tunnelling to Euston result in massive uncertainty that there will be any benefits for Watford passengers.”

Watford Observer:  Aerial view of HS2's Colne Valley Viaduct progress from December 2023. Aerial view of HS2's Colne Valley Viaduct progress from December 2023. (Image: HS2)

More broadly, the report questioned the government’s assessment that it was better to complete Phase One of the project than cancel the whole high-speed railway programme, and stated: “HS2 now offers very poor value for money to the taxpayer."

“The department acknowledges that building just Phase One will not be value for money because total costs will significantly outweigh benefits,” it added.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We disagree with the committee’s assessment. Their estimated cost figure for Phase One also does not reflect our decision to secure private funding for Euston, or the direction not to proceed beyond the Midlands.

Watford Observer: Watford JunctionWatford Junction (Image: Newsquest)

“Our plans for Euston have already received extensive support from the private sector to invest and will offer a world class regeneration opportunity, mirroring the successful King’s Cross and Battersea and Nine Elms development programmes.

“The Permanent Secretary has already written to the committee chair setting out her assessment on value for money, and we have repeatedly made clear we will continue to deliver HS2 at the lowest reasonable cost, in a way that provides value for taxpayers.”

HS2 Ltd said that it is under new leadership and implementing changes to learn lessons and control costs.