Campaigners are calling for MPs along the proposed route of HS2 to put their money where their mouth is, now it has been revealed that the HS2 Paving Bill is to be the first bill introduced into parliament following the Queens Speech. The first reading of the High Speed Rail (Preparation Bill), will actually take place before the first debate on the Queens speech on Monday 13th May.
The speed at which the bill is being put forward is a sign that the Government are desperate to find a way to spend more money more quickly on HS2. The project has been beset by delays and cost-overruns, and the Paving Bill 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.
The annual report of the Major Projects Authority, which rated HS2 as an “Amber-Red’ risk is expected to be published this month. The Amber-Red rating means “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.” While the MPA annual report will cover HS2, the full report into HS2 is due to be kept secret for another year.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:
“We have always known that the Government have never been interested in doing HS2 properly, they have only ever wanted it doing quickly, but we are quite frankly shocked they are putting something on the table so soon. HS2 Ltd have lost all budgetary control of the project and all the Government want to do is give them a blank cheque to carry on with complete disregard to both due process as soon as possible.”
“This month we are finally expecting the annual report of the Major Projects Authority. A year ago they said there were that many problems with HS2 that they weren’t sure it could ever be got right, but all the Government can do to solve these problems is throw more money at this white elephant vanity project at a time of supposed austerity.
“There have been a lot of MPs along the route who have made some of the right noises, some of the time over the last three years. Now there is a bill on the table, it is time for them to say whether they will put their constituents or their careers first.”
“A while ago we launched a petition against a Paving Bill, and now it is set to become reality, we expect it will gain traction.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said:
“The haste with which the High Speed Rail Preparation Bill is being put in front of Parliament is a clear sign of desperation on the part of the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd. Stop HS2 has been increasingly aware that the HS2 project is running behind schedule and over budget, with the cancellation of the planned Euston rebuild and changes elsewhere and the high speed with which this bill is being put to Parliament shows the HS2 project is in crisis.
“The Government said that the Preparation Bill was there to ‘crack on’ with the project and to ‘smooth the way’ to deposit the HS2 hybrid bill this year. In reality it’s there to smooth over the cracks of an exorbitently expensive white elephant. We call on the Government to acknowledge the real situation, to stop wasting taxpayers’ money and to cancel the HS2 project immediately.”
Independent Chiltern District Councillor Seb Berry said:
“It’s crunch time. Local MPs including Ministers must now decide what matters to them most, constituency or career. Are they going to stand up for their blighted communities or are they going to make lots of helpful noises but then side with their government in the key votes later this year. If it’s the latter, people will never forgive them. This week they also have an opportunity to demonstrate that they really “get it” by not voting for the government’s Queen’s Speech motion which will of course indicate their support for both HS2 bills along with the rest of the government’s programme. We will see.”
Deanne DuKhan, AGHAST Campaign Director said:
“There’s a lot of talk in Westminster about fairness, ‘being in this together’, ‘One Nation’ and standing up for the right people. It will be interesting to see how MPs who vote for HS2 will justify themselves when it becomes clear that this massive expenditure won’t actually mean new jobs or growth outside London. And adding insult to injury, the taxpayers will find themselves footing the bill and then subsidising a mode of travel that only the wealthy few can afford to use. Look out for some furious back-pedalling on the benches in the face of public outcry once the reality of this project becomes clear.”
The petition against the Paving Bill is here- http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46498