Your commercial news round-up: Post Office scandal, EV chargers, nuclear power, HS2

updated on 11 January 2024

Reading time: three minutes

Another week, another commercial news round-up. It’s time to take a look at the latest in the Post Office scandal, government targets for electric vehicle chargers and nuclear power, and rising High Speed 2 (HS2) costs.

  • A new law is set to be introduced to “swiftly exonerate and compensate victims” of the Post Office scandal. Horizon, which was introduced by the Post Office in 1999 to complete tasks such as accounting and stocktaking, was found to have “hundreds” of bugs, creating shortfalls in the accounts of individual Post Office branches. The issues began being reported to the Post Office from the early 2000s. More than 900 workers were wrongly prosecuted for the system’s errors, with the recent ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office throwing the scandal into the spotlight. One of the victims has called for Fujitsu (the company that developed Horizon) to pay the compensation owed to sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted of theft. The Post Office still uses the Horizon system but describes the current version as “robust”. Alan Bates, one of the main claimants against the Post Office, has described the government’s announcement as “another positive step forward” but called for more action to ensure adequate compensation.
  • A government target to have at least six rapid or ultra-rapid chargers at every motorway service station in England by 2023 hasn’t been met, according to RAC analysis. The RAC collected data using charger locator business Zapmap, with its findings suggesting that only four in 10 currently meet this criteria. Only 46 of 119 sites have six of these high-powered charging facilities, which can add around 100 miles of range to an electric vehicle when charged for approximately 35 minutes. Simon Williams, a spokesperson for the RAC, cited “high-power cabling to the grid” as the “major barrier”, calling for more to be done to simplify the process.
  • Continuing with UK energy news, the government has also announced plans to boost the nuclear power industry, reduce reliance on overseas supply and support thousands of jobs. It’s hoped that a new large-scale nuclear plant would quadruple supplies by 2050 up to 24 gigawatt (GW) – the biggest expansion for 70 years, “helping to power Britain from Britain”. The roadmap includes:
    • steps for exploring a GW-scale power plant that’s similar in size to Sizewell in Suffolk or Hinkley in Somerset; and
    • plans to invest up to £300 million in the UK’s production of reactor fuel.  

The roadmap has been welcomed by many professionals in the industry. However, the plans have been called “delusional” by Tom Burke, chair of climate thinktank E3G. Burke said they won’t help to meet the target to be carbon neutral by 2035, “because you’ll hardly have started it in 2035”.

  • Following the government’s decision to cancel HS2 between the West Midlands, Manchester and the East Midlands, Sir Jonathan Thompson, head of the company, revealed the London to Birmingham stretch of the project could cost more than £65 billion due to the rise in cost of materials. Thompson said that the “cost of delivery is more than the government budgeted, and that’s before you begin to account for the extraordinary construction inflation over the last three years or so”. Meanwhile, HS2 Ltd has also been named as the defendant in litigation in 45 separate cases since 2018, according to the Law Gazette’s freedom of information request.

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