Warning light is cast on rail plans

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AYLESBURY MP David Lidington has demanded answers after a government report on HS2 found the ‘successful delivery of the project is in doubt’ and highlighted ‘major risks or issues’ with the plans.

The rail line was given a downbeat amber/red rating by the Major Projects Authority – which was formed by the Prime Minister in October 2010 to oversee large scale government schemes.

Since the report HS2 Ltd has advertised a series of £97,000-a-year jobs (such as head of PR and head of information) leading anti-HS2 campaigners to accuse the organisation of ‘ploughing ahead regardless’.

In a letter to cabinet office boss Francis Maude, Mr Lidington asked him to ‘clarify what analysis the authority undertook in coming to its conclusion’.

He also asked ‘will the urgent action that is required affect the Department for Transport’s timetable for implementation of the HS2 proposals?’

Penny Gaines, of Quainton, social media director of the Stop HS2 campaign group, has also called for the authority’s report to be released. She said: “This is still a fairly early stage of the project. They are still designing it and an amber alert at this stage is a real concern. The entire project will take another 15 years before it opens and it will be relatively easy to cancel now when you compare how much money is committed if this goes ahead – £17 billion.

“It’s crazy in a time when so many services and projects at an advanced stage are being cancelled. It seems silly to carry on with this project.”

Following the amber/red status Ms Gaines is urging the coalition to commission research into the future of video conferencing.

She believes that new technology, such as tablets and smart phones, will reduce the number of people who chose to travel for meetings by 2026 – which may raise questions about the project’s business case.