MPs call for HS2 to be put on hold

Before and after: View of HS2 looking towards Wendover Dean
Before and after: View of HS2 looking towards Wendover Dean

The economic case for HS2 has ‘serious shortcomings’ and should be looked at again, an influential Commons committee has said.

A group of MPs has said the controversial £43 billion project, which would cut through Aylesbury Vale, should be put on hold until it has been fully reassessed by the Government.

HS2

HS2

The Government insists the project is ‘value for money’ and will deal with ‘urgent capacity needs’.

The budget for HS2 has spiralled by nearly £10bn over the summer, leading to increasing concerns about the project.

Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, said: “A more convincing economic case for the project is needed.

“We need reassurance that it can deliver the benefits intended and that these benefits are greater than those of other transport schemes – whether in the department’s project pipeline or not – which may be foregone.”

Campaigners seized on the comments, describing them as ‘another hammer blow to HS2’.

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “Yet again, an independent assessment of HS2 gives it the red light.

“The Treasury Select Committee think the case for HS2 doesn’t hold water and they are right.

“They are just another body in a very long list of bodies who are right, who have come at this from no other point than making sure taxpayers’ money isn’t wasted, and they have seen that the case for HS2 has been cooked.

“How many do there have to be before the Government listen?

“There is a reason that HS2 is so controversial and that’s because it is a crap idea with justifications that have been bolted on afterwards to try and make this boondoggle seem like a good idea.

“The only thing keeping this Whitehall elephant alive is political pride and vanity.

“It really should be put out of its misery before it suffers too much.”

A Government spokesman said HS2 is ‘absolutely vital’ for the country.

He said: “The project is on course, under control and will be delivered within the agreed budget.

“We are confident that our analysis is robust and conforms with Government spending guidance.

“The case for HS2 will be further improved when we publish shortly the updated strategic case - including cost benefit analysis – which will show high value for money for the project.”

Next week, the HS2 Action Alliance will take its appeal to the Supreme Court over the environmental assessment carried out by the Government.

The group argues that the Government should have undertaken a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the proposed high speed line.

Hilary Wharf, the alliance’s director, said: “The Government seem determined not to comply with their environmental obligations.

“We believe we have a strong and winning case and that if the SEA directive had been complied with, then the alternatives and their environmental impacts would have had to be properly studied and consulted on at the outset.

“This process would have been likely to have delivered a different decision than HS2.”

The case will be heard on October 15 and 16.