Labour claims it was left out of HS2 review talks
The Government has announced a review into the rail project.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has agreed to meet with Labour after the party claimed it has been left out of cross-party talks on the future of HS2.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald has said despite the review into HS2 being cross-party, he had not been contacted by anyone in Government.
Mr McDonald said: “The Secretary of State has mentioned that a cross-party review is under way.
“I just gently point out that there’s been no consultation with me whatsoever, and if it’s to be genuinely cross-party, perhaps he might want to take up that invitation?”
In response, Mr Shapps agreed to meet with his opposite number, adding: “I will organise to meet separately with him, but the review is genuinely cross-party.”
The new Transport Secretary told the Commons that an independent review will look into “whether and how” HS2 should proceed.
There should be a transport-wide review, taking into account changes in technology Dame Cheryl Gillan
He told MPs that the chairman of HS2 believes the rail project cannot be delivered within a budget £55.7 billion and that it is more likely to cost between £72 billion and £78 billion.
Mr Shapps said it is unlikely the initial services will be delivered in 2026, saying the chairman of HS2 suggests a “range of start dates”, with initial services starting between 2028 and 2031.
He added that the full high-speed line to Manchester and Leeds may not open until between 2035 and 2040.
Conservative MP Dame Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) has criticised HS2 and called on the Government to start again with HS2 and conduct a transport-wide review.
Dame Cheryl, who is opposed to HS2 and has spoken against the project on numerous occasions, said: “The opportunity to review the project entirely should be grasped with both hands.”
She continued: “Let us just draw a deep breath, cancel this project, start again and get it right. There should be a transport-wide review, taking into account changes in technology.”
Mr Shapps replied: “We know transport is changing and that we must take a holistic view and that rail is only a part of that.”
Placing a time limit on contributions from backbench MPs, Speaker John Bercow said: “Understandably there is great interest in this monumental mess.”
Former transport secretary Sir Patrick McLoughlin urged the Government not to do the “easiest thing” and scrap HS2.
He said: “The easiest for the Government to do is to cancel this project.
“I actually think that would be the wrong thing to do for this reason. I will find it ironical that as we leave the European Union I can get a high-speed train to Brussels or to Paris but not to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield.”
HS2 is a once in a generation opportunity to improve services on major rail routes, including passenger services to locations not directly served by #HS2. This will help reduce overcrowding by offering more seats on more trains. Read how: https://t.co/6NjThhOYyd pic.twitter.com/L3dsV8NIkX— HS2 Ltd (@HS2ltd) September 3, 2019
Erewash MP Maggie Throup called for the Transport Secretary to stop the East Midlands being the “poor relation yet again”.
She added: “Any delay causes further stress and uncertainty not just for residents but businesses as well, and they will be blighted forevermore even if my right honourable friend takes the easy way out and cancels the eastern arm.”
Tory former minister David Lidington said MPs had long predicted HS2 would be over-budget and off-schedule despite denials from HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport.
He called for initial “enabling works” on the first phase of the project to be halted.
Mr Shapps said: “We are in a position where I have to make a go, no-go decision about this in December.
“I know this won’t delight my right honourable friend, but it seemed to me that even to be in that position if we didn’t continue to make preparatory works, then I wouldn’t be in a go, no-go decision.”