This was originally published in the Bucks Herald:
The politics of HS2 is far from certain. It would be all too easy for those opposed to HS2 to be disheartened following the General Election result.
The Conservatives who have championed the scheme have been returned with a majority Government, with MPs along the line in the main returned with larger majorities.
Of course those majorities increased almost exclusively due to a collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote, whilst the parties opposed to HS2 both significantly increased their vote share.
In the last Government, on many issues potential Tory rebels were kept to heel by the fear of splitting the coalition, whilst as John Major will testify, backbenchers are far more empowered to rebel in Governments with small majorities.
Couple with this the fact that Labour leadership front runner Andy Burnham is sceptical of the HS2 project, which along with fellow candidate Yvette Cooper finds it going through his constituency, and the concept of the supposedly essential cross-party support is suddenly looking less solid.
It has been further damaged by the first slap in the face delivered to new SNP MPs from HS2 Ltd. It has transpired the feasibility study into extending HS2 north of the border has concluded there is no business case for it.
Whilst anyone who has been keeping up with the arguments surrounding HS2 knows there is no business case for any of it, it is unusual to hear such candour from an official source.
The Scots will also not be impressed that the Welsh, who have a far better case for making such an argument, have been unsuccessful so far in arguing for a Barnett pay-out because the Government insist HS2 is not an ‘England-Only’ project, as the supposed benefits will be spread far and wide beyond the physical track.
Add all of that together, along with surely more revelations about rising costs, decreasing benefits and general debacles in the months before the HS2 Bill returns to be voted on in Parliament, and you may well feel we are in a better position to stop HS2 now than we were before the election.