PM hopeful Boris Johnson would scrap controversial HS2
The controversial high speed train line which passes through Nottinghamshire could be scrapped, prime ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson has said.
It comes after a new report said there was “a great deal of ambiguity” about the real costs involved in HS2, in part because no full breakdown had been published since 2013.
Its supporters say the project is crucial to address the economic imbalances between the south of England and the rest of the country. But critics say the cost is far too high, and that money could be better spent elsewhere. Preparatory work has already begun in London and Birmingham for the first phase.Now, Conservative MP Mr Johnson, who is the bookies’ favourite to become Prime Minister next month, has said a key HS2 vote expected in December could be “D-day” for the scheme.A vote known as a ‘notice to proceed’ will decide whether the final bill for the major construction work on phase one of the project – which goes from London to Birmingham – should be approved.
Mr Johnson said he would review the project, and that the vote in December would be a “go or no go” decision.In a hustings with Conservative Party members in Birmingham, he said: “I represent Uxbridge and South Ruislip and HS2 I’m afraid …we managed to get a tunnel out through a lot of it, but the fact is it is going to cause a great deal of difficulties for my constituency.“I have anxieties about the business case for HS2. I think there are questions, legitimate questions, that any incoming Prime Minister would want to satisfy himself about, herself about, before what I think is a go or no go decision in December about profiling of the spend and so on.”Mr Johnson’s comments come as a House of Commons report said while HS2 Limited was looking to make savings, the figure widely circulated was the budget, and was £9.3 billion lower than the projected cost.It said: “There is a great deal of ambiguity as to how much HS2 will cost. “A large part of this confusion lies in the fact that very few estimates of the costs have been published. A comprehensive breakdown of the costs for the full Y-network of HS2 has not been published since 2013. “Various estimates of costs get circulated in the public domain, most notably the £55.7 billion for the full Y-Network. It is important to note that this is not a cost estimate, but rather a funding envelope.“The Government remains committed to delivering the scheme within this envelope but estimates at the time of the 2015 Spending Review put the costs of the full Y-network at around £65 billion (in 2015 prices); although this was not published at the time by HS2 Ltd or the Department for Transport.”A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We fundamentally disagree with this report and this figure is incorrect. The Spending Review in 2015 established a long term funding envelope of £55.7bn and we expect HS2 Ltd to deliver to this budget.”
Responding to Mr Johnson’s comments, a spokesman for HS2 Limited said: “We will work with whoever the next Prime Minister is. We are confident that we have a project that is value for money and the right strategic answer to the UK’s infrastructure needs and economic future.”Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, said: “We have known for nine years that the case for HS2 has been founded on spin but this report makes it absolutely clear that ministers, the DfT and HS2 Ltd have been carrying out a calculated conspiracy to mislead the public and parliament about the known costs of HS2 for at least the last four years. “You have to remember that MPs voted for HS2, completely unaware that ministers and mandarins knew the estimated cost of the project was significantly higher than they were being told. “With weasel words, they will try and claim they have done nothing wrong as they have always said the ‘budget’ is £56bn, not the ‘estimated cost’, but to have covered up the fact they were £9.2bn over budget the moment that budget was set, is simply a scandalous subterfuge.”