In the major Government announcements of the Autumn Statement, one might expect to see something about big Government projects, especially ones which are expected to cost upwards of £55 billion.
But HS2 was barely mentioned in the documentation, even in the Northern Powerhouse Strategy. In particular there is no mention of the costs of HS2, even though the overall costs dwarfs the other £13 billion given to the Northern Powerhouse transport.
Two schemes did get more discussion.
Firstly East-West rail, which is part of a plan to support growth in the Oxford-Cambridge corridor, via Milton Keynes. This crosses the HS2 route, and yet there is no interchange there. The possibility was long since dismissed by Andrew Adonis and HS2 Ltd, on the grounds that a station near Oxford would slow the HS2 trains down too much – except we are now told that speed is not the point of High Speed Two.
Another scheme which was also brought up in Hammond’s speech was a promised £7.6 million to save the historic Wentworth Woodhouse near Rotherham. The money was needed to reverse the effects of coal-mining which Hammond said had been an “extraordinary act of cultural vandalism” allowed by the 1946 Labour Government.
With the Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trusts appearing before the House of Lords HS2 Bill Select Committee this morning, we couldn’t help but wonder when future ministers will condemn the cultural and environmental vandalism caused by HS2.