Desperate to find a way to spend more money more quickly on HS2, the Government is expected to announce two Parliamentary Bills for the controversial project in the Queens Speech tomorrow. A Hybrid Bill would cover everything required to allow Phase 1 of the project to be built, but could take up to four years to get through Parliament. With the project beset by delays and cost-overruns, the Government is also expected to announce a Paving Bill, the main purpose of which would be to allow money to be spent on the project which would not normally be available until Royal Assent were gained for the Hybrid Bills.
A Paving Bill would give the Government more spending powers on both Phases 1 & 2 of HS2, and has the advantage for of allowing a quick vote on the project before the detailed scrutiny which would be seen in a Hybrid Bill has happened. There is speculation that the Paving Bill is also intended to give HS2 Ltd additional powers to access land and conduct surveys, and would include a commitment to building a third phase to Scotland.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:
“The Government have never been interested in doing HS2 properly, they have only ever wanted it doing quickly. Introducing a Paving Bill shows a complete disregard to both due process and budgetary control. The HS2 project has been stalling because of the incompetence of HS2 Ltd and the fact they have kept on getting their figures wrong. Introducing a Paving Bill at this stage is simply writing a blank cheque to the very consultants who after initially lobbying for HS2 to be built, are now consistently over-spending their contracts and displaying gross incompetence.”
“Three years ago, we were told HS2 would cost £750m by the next election, but last month the projection was already over a billion. A Paving Bill is simply a green light for that number to get even more out of control, so that in the future politicians will say HS2 can’t be cancelled as too much money has been spent on it. They are simply trying to avoid the scrutiny a Hybrid Bill would put the project under and get a quick vote while most MPs are sill seduced by the fact high speed rail sounds like a good idea, without understanding any of the reasons why it would be a disaster for the country.”
“There will be massive anger, if as expected to Government are planning to give HS2 Ltd the powers to just waltz on to peoples land. HS2 Ltd have treated the public who would be effected by HS2 shamelessly so far and we have no faith in them being respectful. Putting a commitment to get HS2 to Scotland would simply be a shamelessly expensive attempt to buy off voters prior to their independence referendum.”
“A while ago we launched a petition against a Paving Bill, and now it is set to become reality, we expect oit will gain traction.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said:
“The Paving Bill is an acknowledgement from the Department for Transport that HS2 is over budget already, before they’ve even finished drawing up the plans. It’s clear that HS2 Ltd have been overambitious and reckless with taxpayer’s money, as the cancelled plans to rebuild Euston show.
“We are particularly concerned about speculation that the Paving Bill may give powers to HS2 Ltd to go onto people’s property without needing their consent. There have been a huge numbers of issues around HS2 surveys and the difficulty individual property owners have to get independent advice. HS2 Ltd employees consistently failed to act sensitively towards people who will lose their homes and businesses as a result of the HS2 plans. With extra legal powers to override the concerns of individuals, this arrogance from HS2 Ltd staff is only likely to increase.
“The government is currently planning to spend £1 billion on HS2 by the time of the next election, but the Hybrid Bill for Phase 1 is not expected to have passed by then. We think the HS2 proposal is a costly white elephant. The plans are over budget and behind schedule already, four years before they are due to start construction. We call on the Government to avoid wasting Parliamentary time on a project doomed to failure and announce the cancellation of HS2 as soon as possible.”
Just one of the examples of how badly HS2 Ltd have got things wrong is that in 2011 HS2 Ltd said it would take 7-8 years to rebuild Euston – “Construction of the entire station would take seven to eight years, with a likely start date of 2017.”
But when cancelling the rebuild in April 2013, the HS2 Ltd press release – said “This option, developed partly in response to concerns from the community about the potential disruption caused by redevelopment that would have taken more than a decade, would obviate the need to rebuild all the existing platforms.”
The petition against the Paving Bill is here- http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46498