‘All we get is hassle’ over HS2, complains transport secretary who wants to fast track the plans

HS2 opponent Joe Rukin, with members of the Stop HS2 group
HS2 opponent Joe Rukin, with members of the Stop HS2 group

Hopes that HS2 could be reconsidered in light of the West Coast Main Line debacle have been dealt another blow by the new transport secretary.

Patrick McLoughlin said he wanted to fast track the scheme and would ‘love’ to complete the project in five years - before construction had even been due to begin - in an interview with the Independent.

He said: “All we get is grief. All we get is hassle. But one of the things that government has got to try and do is to look to the long-term future. Whichever route we’re going to put it on we’re going to upset people.”

This week Mr McLoughlin told the Tory party conference he wanted to ‘crack on with HS2’ and will soon launch a study looking at linking the line with Scotland.

The comments were made despite a letter from Aylesbury MP David Lidington who urged him to investigate if ‘flawed assumptions’ were used in the HS2 plans - citing the now scrapped West Coast Man Line franchise decision, where passenger number forecasts were found to have mistakes.

Stop HS2 campign co-ordinator Joe Rukin said: “Mr McLoughlin is trying the same old trick, trying to pass us off as just a bunch nimbies and says we are missing the point, but it is he who is missing the point.

“His government keeps getting grief and hassle because they are pig-headed about a project which is massively expensive, environmentally disastrous, not what the country needs and will not deliver on its promises.

“The New Economics Foundation, The Institute of Economic Affairs, The Adam Smith Institute and The Taxpayers’ Alliance all oppose HS2, and even the Institute of Engineering and Technology have said the plans are fundamentally flawed, but he wants to stick his fingers in his ears and pretend the opposition is all about the route.”

“When the chair of the Public Accounts Committee is using words like ‘bonkers’ about the economic modelling for HS2, how can the government not listen?

“The National Audit Office has taken the unprecedented step of investigating this project at such an early stage, and even the governments own Major Project Authority are unsure about the viability of HS2, but he doesn’t want to accept that is why they are getting grief and hassle.”

“McLoughlin trying to sweep the errors in the West Coast Main Line franchise under the carpet and saying there are no implications for HS2 is simply irresponsible.”