Secretary of State Philip Hammond has ruled out a consultation on the principle of high speed rail, three days after Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers assured MPs that there would be one and that HS2 is “Not a done deal”. Mr Hammond had also previously stated that there would be a consultation on the principle of the HS2 project.

Following a Lobby Day event at Westminster on 25th October when serious questions were raised concerning the business case from HS2, on 28th October Banbury MP Tony Baldry asked Mr Hammond if he would “give an undertaking that next year’s consultation will include a consultation on the principle of HS2.”

The response from the Secretary of State was;

The consultation next year starts from the premise that the Government believe that a high-speed rail network will be in the United Kingdom’s interest, but it will consult on issues to do with the design of that network, the route and the details of the proposals for the London to Birmingham link.

This was a complete turnaround from previous statements, as at Conservative Party Conference, Mr Hammond had told BBC WM;

We will be consulting in the new year, both on the principle of high speed rail, on the route proposal the broad shape of the high speed network and on the detailed specific route between London and Birmingham. All three of those things will be up for consultation.”

On 25th October, Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers clearly stated to an audience of MPs, Councillors and Campaigners that there would be a consultation into the principle of HS2 and that it was ‘not a done deal’. She said;

“The public consultation will then commence early next year. We intend it to be a thorough and inclusive consultation. Four of the most important issues it will cover are as follows: First, the principle of whether new high speed rail lines should be built; Secondly, the broad corridor for a new line; Thirdly, the detailed route. Fourthly, the approach to blight and how best to assist those whose properties are negatively affected by the proposals. Let me take this opportunity to repeat what I have said again and again on this. This is not a done deal. The consultation is an absolutely crucial part of the decision-making process. You can make a difference. You can shape the outcome of this process and the decisions that will ultimately be made. As the Secretary of State has said during his HS2 visits, he is keen for those affected to engage extensively on all questions under consideration.”

Stop HS2 Convenor Joe Rukin said;

“This u-turn is absolutely disgraceful. There are massive holes in the business case for HS2 and we have been preparing our responses to the consultation for months. Theresa Villiers got up in front of a room of MPs saying ‘it’s not a done deal’ and there would be a thorough and inclusive consultation covering the principle of whether new high speed rail lines should be built. Three days later Philip Hammond rules this out saying they have already decided it is in the best interest of the country. We have carefully prepared our arguments based on the facts, and the facts show the business case for HS2 simply isn’t there. Mr Hammond knows that, he knows that a public consultation would tell him that, he knows there are now more questions being asked about the figures and the need for HS2, so he has now scrapped this part of the public consultation. This shows that this is a done deal as far as he is concerned. The Secretary of State clearly isn’t interested if there is a business case, if there is a need for HS2, or if there is the money to pay for it. Like a petulant child at Christmas, he just wants his train set.”

STOP HS2 is the national group campaigning on behalf of anti-HS2 action groups up and down the proposed route. See http://www.stophs2.org.

  1. Mr Hammonds response to Mr Baldrys question can be found in column 451 of Hansard of 28th October at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm101028/debtext/101028-0001.htm#10102837000021
  2. Philip Hammonds interview with BBC WM in which he stated there would be a public consultation on the principle of HS2 can be found from time index 5.10 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3WGESUUxN0
  3. Theresa Villiers speech at the HS2 Lobby Day can be found on at http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/speeches/villiers20101026 an audio recording is available at http://www.vimeo.com/16222135 from time index 4.34.
  4. News reports from the Lobby Day can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/StopHS2.
  5. For more details from Stop HS2 contact Joe Rukin on 07811 371880, Lizzy Williams on 07842 164880 or Penny Gaines on 01296 655613
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