On 6th May, The Sunday Telegraph reported that HS2 will not be in The Queens Speech outlining the policies to be taken forward by Government, taking that as a sign that the David Cameron is having second thoughts about the highly controversial project. Campaigners on both sides of the HS2 argument have dismissed HS2 being missing from the speech as irrelevant, as the Hybrid Bill was not due to be deposited until the end of 2013. However, while some have seen this as a kite-flying exercise to see who complains about the idea that HS2 might be dropped -which has seen very few speak out- others see this as the first step in the climb down which will see the project cancelled.
Pressure has risen on David Cameron with a group of 20 Conservative MPs publishing an ‘Alternative Queens Speech’, with their third priority being to cancel HS2 and invest in existing infrastructure instead. In the document they say “The price is astounding….. The business case has collapsed….. HS2 a rich man’s toy .” Whilst welcoming any proposal to boost the economy in the north of England, they have accepted, using the DfT official figures that HS2 is no such proposal with the vast majority of any jobs projected to go to London. As a further boost to the Stop HS2 campaign, they also adopt the standpoints that what is really needed is investment in existing transport infrastructure and developing broadband connections.
Skepticism about HS2 is continuing to grow following four downgradings of the business case so far, the plans being torn apart at the Public Accounts Committee and the revelation that the Major Projects Authority has put HS2 on Amber/Red Alert, meaning ‘The Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible.’ At the recent session of the Public Accounts Committee, Chair Margaret Hodge MP (Lab) lambasted various figures pertaining to HS2 as “Potty, Shocking, Biased and Bonkers” adding that she was “Gobsmacked” at the passenger forecasts used to justify HS2.
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“While we are not sure HS2 was ever meant to be in this year’s Queens Speech, what we have seen is that so many more questions are being asked about HS2, with more leading figures taking heed of our message that there is no business case or money to pay for HS2. There is very good reason for this as last month we found out the Major Projects Authority gave HS2 an ‘Amber-Red’ rating, meaning there are that many problems with it that they aren’t sure it can be fixed, and the Public Accounts Committee absolutely ripped apart the figures and justification for the project. If a camel is a horse designed by a Committee, HS2 is a project designed by the front benches of the three main parties, without any attempt to understand the facts or the alternatives and it is great news that more MPs are realising this.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said:
“We know that there is huge concern amongst ordinary voters about HS2: we know that Boris Johnson was concerned enough that he voiced his doubts about HS2 the day before his election for London Mayor. We need to make it clear to David Cameron that HS2 is a bad way of spending an under-reported £33 billion of the country’s money. We need to make it clear to him that the electorate have seen though the Department for Transport’s HS2 spin whether it comes from the Prime Minister, or through the Government owned HS2 Ltd. HS2 must be cancelled, not mere rumours of delay.”