Cam­paign­ers call for ur­gent re­view into rail project

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by Camilla Good­man camilla.good­man@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @Camil­la_Good­man

THE Stop HS2 cam­paign is call­ing on the new Sec­re­tary of State for Trans­port Chris Grayling to ur­gently re­view the high speed rail project.

It fol­lows on from the re­cent rev­e­la­tion the com­pany failed a re­view in May due to wor­ries about costs and sched­ules.

It had pre­vi­ously been stated that HS2 Ltd would have to pass ‘Re­view Point 1,’ be­fore be­ing al­lowed to start its’ ten­der­ing process, but de­spite fail­ing, the DfT and Trea­sury gave them the go ahead.

New Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has a record of can­celling projects on tak­ing of­fice, with ID Cards and an im­mi­gra­tion com­puter sys­tem be­ing can­celled as soon as she be­came Home Sec­re­tary.

Mr Grayling did not vote at the time of the sec­ond read­ing of HS2 in the House of Com­mons for ‘un­known rea­sons’ but he did vote for it at the third read­ing.

How­ever, Stop HS2 says one thing which does seem cer­tain is that the ‘lack of en­vi­ron­men­tal cre­den­tials’ for HS2 will ‘surely’ be pointed out at cabi­net, as long-time critic An­drea Lead­som takes over as En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary.

Stop HS2 cam­paign man­ager Joe Rukin said: “Mr Grayling must im­me­di­ately get to the bottom of why HS2 Ltd have been al­lowed to be­gin their ten­der­ing process, de­spite fail­ing their re­view.

“The other big ques­tion that he must look into right away is where the real

cost of the project is af­ter they seemed to find £9bn worth of cost sav­ings down the back of the sofa, be­cause it looks to us like the ac­tual cost stands at £63bn, which would take the ben­e­fit cost ra­tio well be­low where it needs to be to progress with the project.

“It would be ir­re­spon­si­ble not to carry out a re­view at this point in time, as even if the new Gov­ern­ment de­cided to go ahead with the project, a post-Brexit HS2 could cost much less, as EU spec­i­fi­ca­tions on things like the need to dou­ble up tun­nels add bil­lions to the over­all cost.”

He con­tin­ued: “Last week we saw a new broom clear­ing out of the old guard, and we can only hope that some of their less sen­si­ble ideas, such as HS2 which has been rated as ‘at risk’ by Gov­ern­ment since 2011, will be on the way out with them. We are con­fi­dent that if an im­par­tial as­sess­ment of HS2 is done with­out po­lit­i­cal bias, then the project will come up sorely want­ing and be can­celled.”

How­ever, on Sun­day Mr Grayling told the BBC he has ‘no plans to back away from HS2,’ which has been in­ter­preted by some me­dia out­lets as a vow to go ahead with the project.

Mr Rukin said: “Say­ing you have no plans to back away from HS2 is hardly the ring­ing en­dorse­ment for the project some have taken it as.

“Whilst Mr Grayling cur­rently seems to have swal­lowed the ar­gu­ment that HS2 is needed for ca­pac­ity rea­sons, the re­al­ity is that HS2 de­liv­ers ca­pac­ity where it is needed the least for a far greater cost than al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions.”

He added: “The Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice re­cently dis­closed that HS2 Ltd has a £9bil­lion cost over­run and they are only cer­tain they can bring £2bil­lion of that back, mean­ing the real cost of the project as it stands is re­ally £63bil­lion, not £56bil­lion.

“We’ve also found out that de­spite HS2 Ltd fail­ing a re­cent re­view, it has still been al­lowed to go ahead with the ten­der­ing process. All of this is likely to put the ben­e­fit-cost ra­tio be­low 1.5, the level at which new Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond said he would give the project ‘very se­ri­ous scru­tiny’ when he was in charge of trans­port.

“Given all this, and the fact a post-Brexit HS2 would cost less, it would be ir­re­spon­si­ble not to con­duct a re­view of the project, be­fore it is too late.”

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