Fears grow that HS2 ‘may cost Wales billions’
CROSS-PARTY concern is mounting about the cost of HS2 amid fears that Wales will “lose out on billions of pounds” as a result of the high-speed rail project.
Plaid Cymru argues that the formula used to allocate funding means the Welsh Government will not receive as generous a cash uplift as Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The warning comes as leading Conservatives are speaking out to criticise the flagship infrastructure project.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the leading Tory opponents of Theresa May’s Brexit plans, told the New Civil Engineer magazine this month it was “absolutely time to face the facts and pull the plug on the HS2 project”.
Esther McVey, who is now Work and Pensions Secretary, reportedly told constituents in November 2017, it emerged this month, that the cost of the project, which the UK Government insists it is committed to delivering within its £55.7bn budget, “might now be more than £100bn”.
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said there are other projects which ought to “take precedence over HS2” and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom has reportedly called for it to be scrapped.
Plaid Cymru Transport spokesman and Carmarthen and East Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards MP said: “We are asking for nothing more than our fair share as set out in the devolution deal. Just the £5bn we are owed from Westminster spending £100bn on an English railway line.
“Like a black hole, London-focused infrastructure projects continue to suck-up every last penny of Westminster spending.”
Labour peer Tony Berkeley has warned HS2 is “likely to run massively over-budget”.
The controversy over HS2 funding comes in the wake of last year’s cancellation of the electrification of the Great Western line from Cardiff to Swansea.
There is also concern that if HS2 slashes journey times between London and English cities it will be harder for South Wales to market itself as an ideal location for out-of-London headquarters.
Plaid accused the Welsh Government of not doing enough to secure a fair share of UK Government spending. It contends that under the formula used to allocate cash there is the a risk that, unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales will receive a “smaller slice of the overall funding”.
However, a Welsh Government spokesman said: “Wales has received additional funding over the current spending review period as a result of increases in the Department for Transport budget, which in large part arise from funding for HS2. We will continue to press this case in the run up to the next spending review.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “We are investing a record amount in renewing Wales’ rail infrastructure to improve reliability and reduce disruption across the network. Network Rail forecasts spending of £2bn in Wales up to 2024.”