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Highways England has responded to a body blow from the National Audit Office 26 days ago (the Stonehenge scheme has a significantly lower benefit-cost ratio than is usual in road schemes” and “could move to an even lower or negative value”) by saying that although the NAO said it could cost up to £2.4bn, they intend to build it for £1.7bn and that Since we worked on this report, we are now even more confident of the costs. Some of the risks that are included in that £2.3bn/£2.4bn number we now know will not materialize, or they have become even more unlikely to materialise.”

This is most peculiar! Either the risks have miraculously (and conveniently) dematerialised in the 26 days since the NAO published its report, or the reduced risks were known about longer than that but weren’t communicated to the NAO! People could be forgiven for thinking some defensive porkyfying is going on.

The suspicion is reinforced by the fact that when asked if he was confident they won’t find any surprises that will considerably increase the cost, their spokesman, Mr O’Sullivan, replied directly: ‘Yes.’ What sort of superman can say that, in advance of tearing up 150,000 square feet of World Heritage Landscape?

 

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