Former Transport Minister Calls on Grayling to Scrap “Budget Busting HS2”

Three former Government Ministers have heaped pressure on the under-fire HS2 project in the House of Commons today (14th February 2019), as it was revealed that last year HS2 Ltd spent over £5m pounds on just 89 agency staff last year, equating to an average salary of in excess of £120,000 for temporary workers.

Labour MP John Spellar, who was Minister for Transport under Tony Blair, was joined by former Welsh Secretary Dame Cheryl Gillan in an attacking the project after former Brexit Secretary David Davies said HS2 should be scrapped, allowing Government to “give the public something they want”

During Transport Questions, Davis pointed out:

“The Minister will be aware that he could replace and upgrade every piece of rolling stock in the country for less than half the price of High Speed 2. Why do we not just cancel this white elephant and give the public something that they want?”

Spellar, who was Labours transport minister from 2001 to 2003, told Grayling the money would be better spent on smaller, cheaper projects, comments which were greeted with cheers from MPs across the House. He said:

“I do not know whether the Minister has read the very authoritative transport study produced for the previous Government by the British Airways chief, Rod Eddington, which clearly made the case against grand projects and advocated widespread incremental improvement. Would we not be better served if the Government funded not only rolling stock but many other transport improvements by scrapping the ever more expensive, budget-busting HS2?”

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In a later question, former Cabinet Minister, Dame Cheryl Gillan highlighted the latest example of profligate spending by HS2 Ltd on inflated wages, asking:

“Who is controlling the money in the Department for Transport? In a written answer this week, the Minister tells me that in the last six months of 2018, HS2 spent £5,663,422 on 89 agency staff per month. That equates to just in excess of £120,000 in an annual salary. What on earth is going on in HS2? Who is making the taxpayer pay these amazingly overpaid prices for personnel on HS2? It is a waste of money; cancel it.

Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2, responded:

“The public doesn’t want it, Members of Parliament doesn’t want it, it really is time to scrap HS2 and spend the money on something else.  The only people who do seem to want HS2 are Chris Grayling and the people who will be paid vast sums of taxpayers’ money for building HS2.  We call on Chris Grayling to do one thing right and cancel HS2 as soon as possible.”

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin added:

“At a time when the Local Government Association are saying that half the country’s bus routes are under threat, spending an exorbitant amount of money on a fast train for fat cats is like building a Waitrose on rails that is of no use to the vast majority of commuters who are stood queuing in Aldi, all with the forlorn hope that someone will open another till. Pushing on with HS2 only serves to demonstrate how detached politicians are from the reality of most peoples’ lives. HS2 must be cancelled before more money is blown on this white elephant.”


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