Earlier this week, MPs met with David Higgins. Here is what Andrea Leadsom had to say about the meeting:
Yesterday [26th March] I attended a seminar with Sir David Higgins, the new Chairman of HS2 Ltd. following the launch of his report ‘HS2 Plus’ which has reviewed many areas of the project and is aimed at delivering HS2 quicker and cheaper than is currently planned.
Sir David made clear that this project is about achieving greater capacity and connectivity, especially in the North and stated that, ‘if you are going to do it, it is best to do it right’. As a result, there will be no HS2 link with HS1, plans for Euston station will be completely re-evaluated and all aspects of the project on Phase 2 – North of Birmingham – are up for discussion.
However, when questioned about Phase 1 of the project, Sir David made clear that there were no plans to discuss substantial changes stating that it would cost ‘billions’ to make changes to the route. This was very disappointing news.
Sir David also announced that he expected Second Reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill to take place on Tuesday 29 April and the long awaited compensation arrangements to be made public in the next ‘four to six weeks.’ When questioned by MPs as to whether this was a sufficient timescale for HS2 Ltd. to consider the responses to the Environmental Statement consultation, Sir David made clear that, ‘it is not (his) decision when the Bill goes before Parliament.’
Sir David was also challenged on the Cabinet Office’s decision to withhold the Major Project Authority’s report into HS2 and told the meeting that he, ‘wouldn’t worry about it’, calling it ‘history’. During the meeting Sir David also confirmed that it is no longer expected that HS2 will run 18 trains an hour and in answer to my question about the accountability of HS2, he announced that he intends to outline a proposal for how HS2 Ltd. will be ‘policed’ shortly.
I am disappointed that as the reasons for HS2 have changed so many times and are now about capacity and connectivity rather than speed, Sir David is not open to re-evaluating whether the route is correct. It also makes clear that he has insufficient consideration for the environmental impact of HS2.
I’m also amazed that the failure to release the important MPA Report is passed off as being of little significance.
I do however take away a little bit of hope that the re-evaluation of Euston station will mean a review of plans to close five of the 18 platforms at Euston for 10 years which would inevitably bring massive disruption to passengers on the West Coast Mainline. Sir David announced that he will come forward with a radical new plan for Euston in six months. I am also keen to hear his plan for the ‘policing’ of HS2 Ltd. as their performance up to this point has been anything but competent or fair.
I intend to meet with Sir David as soon as possible to explore many of these points further.
My fight against HS2 goes on. Until there is a dramatic rethink about HS2, I will continue to fight for generous compensation and effective mitigation to help those substantially affected by HS2 move on with their lives.