United Kingdom

Average HS2 worker costs the taxpayer £94,824 a year

Each person working on the HS2 rail project costs the taxpayer almost £100,000 on average, it has emerged.

And the chief executive of the troubled high-speed link leads the charge – taking home more than four times the Prime Minister last year with £659,416.

The astonishing figures were revealed in HS2’s annual report, which also detailed millions spent on communications, dinners, transport and hotel costs.

They will raise fresh questions over the huge costs of the project, which have already spiralled out of control from £36billion in 2012 to an estimated £106billion.

Each person working on the HS2 rail project costs the taxpayer almost £100,000 on average, it has emerged

The 2019/20 report revealed that HS2 Ltd employs 1,415 people at a cost of £134.2million.

Most of this is made up of wages and salaries, as well as employer pension and National Insurance contributions – all of which are funded by the taxpayer.

It means each staff member cost £94,824 on average in 2019/20, up from £92,501 the year before. Of that amount, an average of £80,189 went directly to the employee in wages.

The project's chief executive Mark Thurston is the most highly-paid public worker in the country

It was already known that chief executive Mark Thurston is the most highly-paid public worker in the country.

But the report disclosed that he took home a £617,296 basic salary last year, up from £603,350 the year before.

On top of this he received a bonus payment of £36,743 as well as ‘taxable benefits’ of £5,376 – a total of £659,416.

The next highest paid was Michael Bradley, HS2’s chief financial officer. His salary of £274,500 was boosted by bonuses, taxable benefits and pension benefit to take his final package to £355,044.

Allan Cook, the chairman, took £266,770 in total. In comparison, Boris Johnson earns just over £150,000 a year.

Campaigners last night accused HS2 of ‘taking taxpayers for a ride’.

Harry Fone of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Since day one HS2 has over-promised and under-delivered.

‘It’s no wonder many see this project as a white elephant that rewards poor performance. Proper scrutiny is long overdue, the Government must interrogate costs and get a grip on this runaway gravy train.’

Former Tory Cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan, who has been campaigning against the high-speed link which cuts through her Buckinghamshire constituency, said: ‘This is a project which is out of control. We knew it is costing the taxpayer an arm and a leg, and now we learn about these ridiculous salary costs.

The astonishing figures were revealed in HS2’s annual report, raising fresh questions over the huge costs of the project, which have already spiralled out of control from £36billion in 2012 to an estimated £106billion

‘They are building a railway which is going to be old by the time it is completed.

‘Taxpayers’ money would be better spent levelling up between the north and south through high-speed broadband and better east-west connections in the north. That would provide employment, but not at this exorbitant cost.’

The annual report into HS2 – which will link London to Leeds and Manchester via Birmingham – shows that in 2019/20 the wage bill was £113.5million, or just over £80million per member of staff on average.

On top of this, they benefit from £7,098 in employers’ pension contributions each on average.

Campaigners last night accused HS2 of ‘taking taxpayers for a ride’. Pictured: The site of a to be completed 10-mile long tunnel in the Chilterns

The report also reveals the huge amount spent by HS2 Ltd in ‘non-staff expenditure’ such as dinners, hotel stays and travel costs.

More than £3.3million was spent on ‘travel and subsistence’ and £802,000 on recruitment fees. Accommodation costs were £13.8million – up from £8.9million the year before.

Some £24.8million was spent on communication and information technology.

Last night an HS2 Ltd spokesman said: ‘In a highly technical project of the scale and complexity of HS2 it is necessary to employ the right level of expertise and knowledge to successfully deliver the programme safely and on time.

‘HS2 Ltd is committed to controlling costs and take our responsibility to ensure taxpayers get value for money very seriously.’

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