In a move reminiscent of the reshuffle of Justine Greening, former Transport Secretary, (ex) shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh has been sidled off to shadow International Development.
In her place is Michael Dugher, Labour MP for Barnsley East. HS2 runs through his constituency, so he should understand the kinds of concerns the HS2 route has for ordinary people who are affected by it. His response to the 2013 consultation on Phase 2 can be read on his website.
His overall view of HS2 was what might be expected from a shadow cabinet minister and expressed there as:
“From the outset I feel it is important to note that I continue to support HS2 in principle. We need more long-term investment in infrastructure and it is important that we address the capacity problems we face on our rail network. But we must also set the right priorities and get value for money.
“The delivery of HS2 must be properly scrutinised. As a member of the Official Opposition I will not hesitate to raise concerns and objections when proposals made by HS2 Ltd to the Government put at risk the ability to achieve optimal benefit from this major financial investment. HS2 Ltd and the Government do not have a ‘blank cheque’, they must keep costs under review and ensure taxpayers receive value for money.”
In the Consultation response, he goes on to detail concerns about the tunnelling, about the risks posed by former coal mines and associated subsidence and specific concerns about the “historic and picturesque hamlet” of Swaithe, and Wombwell Wood, an area of ancient woodland. Very similar concerns have been expressed in different constituencies affected by HS2 in both Phase 1 and Phase 2.
However, he is not blindly in favour of HS2: in December last year he raised the issue of the red/amber 2011 MPA report, whose publication the government has blocked, and asked that it should be published.
Stop HS2 hope that he will carry on looking closely at HS2 and not be taken in by the Government’s claims that it is the only way to reduce the North South divide.