Earlier this month, Conservative MP Bill cash claimed that “Half of the cabinet want to chuck HS2”, which still puts them behind public opinion, according to the latest poll, conducted for the Daily Express.
In the poll, 61% said HS2 is “poor value for money”, with 79% expecting the costs to soar, and 85% agreeing with what former chancellor Alistair Darling had said just a day before the poll came out, that the budget for HS2 would be better spent on improving the capacity of the existing network instead.
If he had been asked, former chancellor Lord Darling would certainly have agreed with that 85%, as just the day before he had told his successor Philip Hammond:
“These big projects all have one thing in common. They always cost far more than anybody thought and they always take longer than anybody thought. Isn’t it time before too much more money is spent on this, it might be better concentrating on smaller projects which might be delivered more quickly and for greater benefit of the whole country?”
“If your forecasts are right as we were talking about at the beginning of this committee, we’re going to be constrained as to the amount of money we can spend, You’re either spending it on HS2 or you’re spending it on these other projects, many of which you know have been postponed. Electrification and so on. Some of the money you’re talking about are exploratory studies and all the rest of it, which I expect you remember all too well. There are a number of us here are very doubtful as to whether or not we are going to get both within a timescale which I think people would find acceptable.”
According to Bill Cash MP, Darling isn’t the only prominent politician wanting HS2 to be given the boot, saying:
“When the public don’t support HS2 as, we have seen, environmental groups are up in arms, now that half the Cabinet want to chuck it so it would appear, it’s time to call it a day. The Chancellor needs to stop throwing money down a black hole and put the brakes on this vanity project before it leaves the station. It is a dying white elephant, or certainly should be, and I now believe there are grounds for having a full review by the Transport and other select committees as appropriate, and a full 2005 Act inquiry into this disastrous project.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“It has always been the case that if HS2 goes ahead, there will be no other investment on the railways for the next 20 years, with costs being allowed to spiral by consultants and civil servants who see HS2 as an opportunity to run their own gravy train. We are already seeing this, with rail investment projects all over the country being cut back and cancelled, meaning commuters up and down the country will continue to face crush hour conditions, because the priority of Government is to build their fast train for fat cats. If you really want to deliver rail capacity and help rebalance the economy, there are a plethora of projects that would deliver more benefits to more people, more quickly and for less money than HS2, and it is not too late to stop blowing billions on this white elephant.”