Theresa Viliers visited Newcastle on Friday to promote HS2 at a meeting reported by the local paper, the Journal.
Her view was that “there is a really strong case for extending the line through the North East to Scotland.”
But in reply to the question “Why is the Government not already building the line from Scotland? You could start on both sides of this line and bring real benefits.” the answer was “trying to get a bill through Parliament for just the London to Birmingham extension was difficult enough, without adding to that the greater problems of a nationwide line.”
So the case for a line to Scotland is “really strong”, but it would be too difficult to get it through Parliament?
Why might it be so hard?
Is it the cost? £33 billion just to get to Manchester and Leeds. How much more would it cost to go to Scotland?
Is it the time it would take? The high speed tracks won’t reach Manchester until the 2030s – would they get to Scotland before the 2040s?
Or is it that the government think some of the current supporters would melt away if the saw the plans extend all the way to Scotland.
Some of the people who currently support it are doing so because they think they will get the benefits of a local station. A typical view is this one, expressed by Tim Garrett, one of the signatories of a letter to the Financial Times supporting HS2.
“But I have another view – a station in Nottingham will put us on the map. It will encourage visitors here. We need this – we need, at the same time, to capitalise on Robin Hood (and I hope to have more on that at a later date!).”
Would people like him be so supportive if they knew Nottingham, or Newcastle, or Carlisle or Sheffield was bypassed? Because at the moment, there is no certainty that the route for the Y section will include a station in or near Nottingham, or Newcastle, or Carlisle, or Sheffield.
The government have said there will be at most one or two more stations on the entire network from London to Scotland.
Until they make it known where those stations might be, all the city councils of potential sites have a reason for supporting HS2. But as soon as the Government lists the actual places that will be served, that reason will go for many of those councils.
And then, like Coventry has done, those cities might join the opposition to HS2…