It was Transport questions in the House of Commons this morning and as often happens there was a question about HS2 and the Oakervee review.
Michael Fabricant’s question about alternative routes and request for a statement made some things public that might otherwise have stayed under wraps.
Paul Maynard, Transport minister, confirmed that he had met Oakervee last week and added that “once the review is finalised the Department has committed to making it public”, going onto say that they had “not put any time limit on Mr Oakervee’s findings, and he will report when he is ready to do so.”
Even supporters of HS2 (the project) appeared less enthused about HS2 (the company) with Graham Stringer asking whether the solution to HS2’s woes was “to put competent people in charge of delivering it“: Maynard reminded him that HS2’s management was one of the things that was in the Oakervee review.
(Allen Cook’s Stocktake document in August had referred to the need to make HS2’s management “match-fit”: not a lot of support from their competence there either.)
Chery Gillan asked about Non Disclosure Agreements being signed by the review panel, and was told that “Mr Oakervee is trying to ensure that he works consensually with the panel to ensure that they reach a single report” – suggesting that members of the panel disagreed with the potential findings.
But the most interesting answer from the session was given in response to Tim Farron’s question where he pointed out that HS2 “would be a lot more popular in the north of England if the trains actually stopped somewhere in the far north of England. At present, there are no plans whatsoever for HS2 trains to stop in Cumbria, even though the Lake District is the biggest visitor destination in the country after London.”
Maynard replied saying that Farron was “perhaps tempting me to go a little too far in presuming that everything is going ahead.”
This is of course a long way from cancelling it, but after years of being told that the project was full steam ahead, it looks like it might be slowing down a little.
Which brings us to David Lidingtn’s question, where he asked Maynard to ensure that “instruct HS2 Ltd that it and its contractors should follow its own construction code” and give due advance notice of preparatory works. Maynard asked for further details, saying that it is “very important” that HS2 works with local communities.
With the increasing question marks over HS2’s future and the lengthening time scales of the review (due in autumn, but Shapps told the Transport Select Committee last week that Autumn lasts until December) we think that HS2 should halt all enabling works immediately.