MPs call for a referendum on paying for HS2

Sample text to send to your MP at the bottom

Dorset MP Christopher Chope has put forward a private members bill calling for a referendum on whether taxpayers should pay for HS2. This will be debated on Friday.

The bill asks “to make provision for a national referendum on whether the proposed construction of the HS2 railway should be supported financially by the UK taxpayer”.

Please could you let your MP know you want them to support this bill and vote for a referendum.

It’s already backed by a range of MPs including Cheryl Gillan, Michael Fabricant and Sir John Randall. Fabricant said about the Bill that it “makes the point that there should be more accountability in spending of such large sums of public money.” The Department for Transport, who are trying to keep budget overruns on HS2 secret decided to oppose it months ago.

For more information, see the bill’s website

Last week, the Public Accounts Committee published a report detailing concerns about that budget overruns on HS2 would be concealed using the contingency categories in the HS2 accounts. And there’s an ongoing House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee inquiry into HS2: last week, one of the Lords described HS2 is a £50bn ‘punt’.

In addition, last week MPs voted for the so-called “austerity bill”, which commits the Government to getting rid of the deficit by 2017-18 whatever the economic circumstances,primarily through spending cuts, and by capping welfare payments. Cancelling HS2 would certainly help with that, as spending will rise when construction starts.

Text to send to your MP via the website follows:

I wish to draw your attention to the HS2 Referendum Bill, proposed by Dorset MP Christopher Chope, which is currently due to receive its’ second reading in the Commons at 9.30 tomorrow, Friday 23rd January. I hope you will consider my point of view and find time to attend this debate and vote for the Bill.

Like the Public Accounts Committee, who last week concluded that they were sceptical that HS2 would be value for money for the taxpayer, I am seriously concerned about the costs of the HS2 project. When the idea was raised by Theresa Villiers MP at Conservative Party Conference in 2008, a high speed railway line from London to the Central Belt in Scotland was predicted to cost £30bn. Seven years later, the official cost of HS2 now stands at £50bn, and that only gets as far as Manchester and Leeds.

The Public Accounts Committee were concerned that a large contingency could be used to mask cost increases, and in my mind it is clear the price of HS2 will go up, as all the costings are still being worked out on 2011 prices. All we have to do to confirm this is look at Crossrail, which was meant to cost £10bn in 2003, but is now looking closer to £20bn, and of course the Olympics which came in at four times over the original budget. The difference of course with Crossrail, at least at the outset, is that the majority of the funding was not intended to come from Central Government.

I do not understand why, at a time of austerity with much cheaper rail investments available which would deliver more benefits to more people more quickly, HS2 is being pursued in such a gung-ho fashion. It is clear to me that the majority of the public agree with me, as every time there has been a public opinion poll conducted regarding the project, support for HS2 has dropped. At the last count in October last year, YouGov found only 24% of the public were in favour of HS2.

The wholehearted support for HS2 from the three main political parties, combined with the opposition to it from UKIP and the Green Party, serves to only underline the disconnect between politicians and members of the public like me, who are seeing cuts take effect in their communities and will see no benefit from HS2.

The Government state that there is a business case for HS2, and unlike almost every other railway in the country, they claim will make money, despite having much higher running costs. I do not believe this for one second as it relies on grossly inflated passenger forecasts, but if the Government truly believe this, then why can they not find private investors to pay for it? Indeed, why are they not queuing up to invest in what the Department for Transport insist will be a gold mine?

As such, I hope you can vote for the HS2 Referendum Bill on Friday, as it would give the public the choice of whether the taxpayer should pay for HS2. This is not a vote to cancel HS2, but simply to ask the taxpayer if they want to foot the bill. The costs of any referendum would be miniscule in comparison to the billions HS2 would cost. I do not think HS2 should go ahead, but if it must and if there is a business case and a profit to be had, then like when the original railways were built, the private sector should shoulder the risk.

3 comments to “MPs call for a referendum on paying for HS2”
  1. The big problem with this govenment is they want everything on the cheap .They need to decide what is good for all the people of the country not just the few .like police NHS roads broadband not spending £50 plus billion for the few rich people to get about on hs2 after all there are trains in place to get you all over the country and how many people will spend the vast amount to save a small amount of time it’s just another Concorde in the making for just for the rich to enjoy

  2. Pingback: MPs call for a referendum on paying for HS2 | S...

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