Like many others, we’ve been watching the cabinet reshuffle with interest.
We are disappointed that Chris Grayling is still in place: we think that HS2 needs a fresh pair of eyes, willing to assess the project again. And with Grayling staying at the DfT this seems less likely to happen.
However, Paul Maynard, who was the parliamentary under secretary of state for HS2 has left the DfT and it is not yet announced who will take this part of the role on.
As to the former Secretaries of State for Transport who are out of the Cabinet, we are not at all sorry to see their departures.
Justine Greening was Transport Secretary from 2011 to 2012. She’d made her way into politics over protesting against the Heathrow third runway, and should therefore have been sympathetic towards people objecting to HS2. But no, arrogant and dismissive to campaigners, she even compared HS2 to Victorian infrustructure which some now see as “things of beauty”. In our view she was a huge hypocrite, campaigning against one major project, while refusing to see the problems with another.
Meanwhile Pactrick McLoughlin is also out. He took over as Transport Secretary after Greening, having spent 17 years as Conservative Cheif Whip. In spite of this, the HS2 Phase 1 bill was still delayed on its journey through Parliament. As Party Chairman, McLoughlin has hardly been a success, with last year’s General Election another failure under his belt, and Conservative Home pointing to falling membership numbers over the last few years – they’ve repeatedly called for a new Party Chair. But HS2 has not helped as numerous people in affected constituencies have left the party.
The truth is Phase 1construction is massively delayed (originally due to start last year), the design unfinished, the budget is blown and HS2 is hugely unpopular in both north and south. The Secretary of State for Transport might not have changed, but he should be canceling HS2 rather than letting the project limp on.