PLANS for HS2 are ‘effectively dead’, according to an unnamed minister quoted in The Spectator magazine.
The minister claims the ‘only thing keeping it on life support is David Cameron’s backing’, while ‘a senior Treasury insider’ says ‘momentum is certainly draining’ for the rail line, which would cut through Aylesbury Vale.
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said: “We hope the Spectator is correct, and that (transport secretary) Justine Greening is listening to the reservations of people outside the Department for Transport and paying attention to the wider issues surrounding the HS2 proposal. Given that HS2 is on a red/amber alert from the Major Projects Authority so early in the process, and we hope this will lead her more careful scrutiny of the whole project.
“It’s clear that more and more people within Government are realising that HS2 is a white elephant of a project. David Cameron should do the right thing, switch off the life support for HS2 and scrap the project as soon as possible.”
Stop HS2 campaign co-ordinator Joe Rukin added: “It may be a bit early to start hanging up the bunting just yet, but it is becoming increasingly clear that HS2 is running out of supporters because the case for it has simply been made up around the idea that those three words ‘high speed rail’ sound like they must be a good idea.
“It is getting clearer and clearer that we have always been right and there is no business case, not environmental case and clearly no money to pay for HS2. All there is now are a handful of petulant children stamping their feet saying ‘I want’, but there are becoming less and less of them.”
However, the Campaign For High Speed Rail rubbished the magazine’s claims.
Lucy James, director of the group, said: “This claim is nonsense. It has been concocted out of thin air by a handful of people within Conservative circles who have an axe to grind against David Cameron and who want to make trouble for the coalition. It is deluded and 100% Tory party internecine politics.
“Let’s take the facts as they are. All three political parties support HS2, the hybrid bill has been timetabled and million pound contracts have been doled out.”
She said that on Wednesday ‘the Prime Minister himself reaffirmed his support for HS2 at PMQs’.
“These are hardly the sorts of signs that imply a project is on its last legs.
“The Spectator and their allies have got a ‘black is white’ thing about HS2, where they blindly ignore the facts in favour of the total opposite. Rather than listening to a small group of people in Westminster, let’s listen to businesses and cities around the country for whom HS2 could not happen fast enough.”