HS2 scheme to be reviewed, but is the announcement all it seems?

This area of Wendover will be affected by the line
This area of Wendover will be affected by the line

HS2 may be scrapped after a review of the scheme was announced by the Government this week.

HS2 may be scrapped after a review of the scheme was announced by the Government this week.
This week Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed that the scheme could be scrapped entirely depending on the outcome of the review, which felt like incredibly good news for campaigners.
But many were then dismayed to learn that preliminary works including some residents still having to move out of their homes, will not be postponed, and that the review is being led by former chairman of HS2 Ltd Douglas Okervee.
This newspaper, which has led the HS2: Enough Is Enough Campaign, is lobbying for all works, sales and evictions to be put on hold until the outcome of the review - to avoid people’s lives and livelihoods being ruined unnecessarily.
Is HS2 going to put any groundworks right if the scheme is scrapped? In the meantime preliminary works could be causing untold damage which at best would take years to put right.
In a national media interview Grant Shapps said: “Just because you’ve spent a lot of money on something does not mean you should plough more and more money into it.
He added that he remains ‘unconvinced’ that the project is still value for money and has said he will now ‘consider all the evidence available’.
“What I’ve said to Doug Okervee – who’s undertaking this review – and what the prime minister has said too, is, ‘Just give us the facts’.” he told Sky News.
Speaking via the Department for Transport media team, Douglas Oakervee said: “The Prime Minister has asked me to lead this important review into the HS2 programme. I looking forward to working with my deputy, Lord Berkeley, to advise the government on how and whether to progress with HS2, based on all existing evidence.”
This week this newspaper has attempted to contact Mr Shapps a number of other ministers directly to lobby for a change in policy. But no one was available to speak to us.
We have left messages with the Department for
Transport in a bid to highlight that not stopping the works will have an impact on real people’s lives, and asked that if the review is looking at potentially scrapping the scheme as Mr Shapps has said, why would the Government not be stopping all works?
But Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan, who has been a long time opponent of the HS2 scheme did speak to us.
She said: “First, the cost has risen astronomically. The latest estimate is in excess of £100 billion: we have just learned lessons from Crossrail about the failure to deliver projects like this on budget and on time. The forecast for HS2 is totally unrealistic, with much of the information being based on the situation 10 years ago, which has not been updated.
“Second, the scheme is also based on the way that we worked and travelled 10 years ago. I believe that the money can be spent better, benefiting the Midlands and the North, on practical improvements with proven benefits to rail passengers and residents there, and on infrastructure like better broadband. Third, this project is not environmentally friendly. Our emphasis now should be on protecting the environment, not destroying it or paying lip service – HS2 planted thousands of trees which subsequently died as they were not maintained after planting.
“ If the review says HS2 is marvellous, then so be it, but I believe the money it would cost could be spent much better.”
Stop HS2 Campaign manager Joe Rukin also echoed our sentiments.
Speaking on the return leg of his campaigning walk of the HS2 route, he said: “We have serious questions as to whether a review headed by
former chair of HS2 could ever be described as independent and we worry, as happened in past, that they are simply going to go away and make up some increasingly outlandish and improbable numbers for jobs, and economic benefits, to justify this white elephant.
“Any review of this project must immediately look into whether and for how long Parliament has been misled about the cost of HS2. It must take evidence from all former staff who have been gagged by the company and it must investigate the accusations made by Lord Berkeley and others in Parliament that HS2 is rampant with fraud.
“If this is to be a genuine review as to whether to go ahead or not with the project, the government must cease all works immediately,
because damage to
irreplaceable habitats and ancient woodland is happening as we speak. This destruction must stop now, not in a couple of weeks, not in a couple of months, not at Christmas, now.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Douglas Oakervee, who has built up considerable knowledge on a wide range of major projects over the course of his sixty-year career, will lead the review and will work with Lord Berkeley as his deputy.
“They will be supported by a panel of experts, bringing together a range of perspectives from business, academia and the transport sector to ensure an independent, thorough and objective assessment of the project. Panellists will each be consulted on the report’s conclusions.
“The terms of reference confirm that the
independently-led government review will look at whether and how HS2 should proceed, using all existing evidence on the project to consider: its benefits and impacts; affordability and efficiency; deliverability and scope; and phasing, including its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail. A final report will be sent to the Secretary of State, with oversight from the
Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the autumn. The report will inform the Government’s decisions on next steps for the project. Limited, largely preparatory works on the project will continue in parallel with the report’s work.”

The HS2 campaign logo

The HS2 campaign logo

The Bucks Herald has led the HS2: Enough Is Enough campaign calling for HS2 to be scrapped. To join our Facebook campaign group CLICK HERE