Prime Minster David Cameron has today (25th November) signalled that the public consultation into HS2, the current proposal for high speed rail, will be irrelevant in the decision making-process, insisting that the project will go ahead. In response to growing disquiet within Tory ranks which was stepped up in a Commons debate on Tuesday, Mr Cameron gave his unequivocal backing to the scheme, claiming it would bridge the North-South divide.
Stop HS2 Campaign Director Joe Rukin said;
“This is a knee-jerk reaction from Mr Cameron to the fact that opposition to HS2 is growing. David Cameron has been trying to encourage the ‘Big Society’, saying that he is all in favour of people having a say about matters which affect their area, yet he seems to be saying that the first big test for his big society, the consultation on HS2, will be a big sham. Despite Transport Minister Theresa Villiers saying HS2 is ‘Not a done deal’, it is clearly a done deal as far as the Prime Minister is concerned.”
“On other rail plans, Philip Hammond told the Commons today that he ‘has to do the homework before he makes any announcement’, but this is clearly not the case with HS2 as the simplest of analyses shows that HS2 has no business case and no environmental case and there is clearly no money to pay for it. He has said the rail package announced today will increase capacity by 185,000 for £8bn, a cost of £43,243 per seat, but the first stage of HS2 is due to cost over four times as much, £17.8bn for an increased capacity of 101,000, or £176,238 per seat. There has been no fanfare about the £30bn worth of transport cuts announced in the spending review.”
After drip-feeding leaks about other rail upgrades to the press for weeks, Philip Hammond today announced many measures which had previously been announced by the last Government, delaying many projects and shelving others to the next spending round, when the will almost certainly be crowded out by HS2, which will need about a third of the entire DfT capital budget for years to come.
Mr Hammonds statement delays Thameslink for 2 years and Crossrail by a year. It also kicks the electrification of the Great Western and Midland Mainline and the upgrading of the intercity express programme into the long grass, with decisions not being made until 2014. Whilst commuters will have to wait for any upgrades, they will of course start paying for them immediately with fares rising on average by 6%.
Stop HS2 Chairman, Lizzy Williams said;
“I’m outraged and aghast at David Camerons comments in the Telegraph today. Mr Cameron clearly has no comprehension of consultation due process and law in this county. He has effectively undermined the entire consultation, rendering it a complete waste of time and money. He is exposing the Government to legal challenge for indicating the decision has been made prior to the consultation. This is modern day propaganda and is an attempt to hide the most expensive white elephant of all stampeding its way through Parliament. By delaying the decision on many rail projects until 2014, Mr Hammond is effectively saying they will never happen as by then a third of the transport capital infrastructure budget will be needed for HS2. Philip Hammond is throwing loose change at existing rail users and saving his wallet for HS2, the fast train for fat cats.”
- 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.
- Comments from David Cameron to the Daily Telegraph can be found http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/8158342/David-Cameron-high-speed-rail-link-will-go-ahead.html
- A transcript of the Commons debate from Tuesday 23rd can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmwhall/01.htm#d2e28
- Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign director has been called to give oral evidence to the Transport Select Committee on 30th November. The written evidence submitted to the Select Committee by Stop HS2 can be found at http://www.stophs2.org/press-releases/222-stop-hs2-evidence-to-the-transport-select-committee.
- Previous press releases from Stop HS2 can be found at http://www.stophs2.org/press-releases.
- For more details from Stop HS2 contact Joe Rukin on 07811 371880, Lizzy Williams on 07842 164880 or Penny Gaines on 01296 655613.
- People can sign the Stop HS2 petition at via the Stop HS2 website or directly at http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-hs2/sign.html.