The HS2 project cannot continue in its current guise, Lichfield’s MP has claimed.
Michael Fabricant MP made his comments in the wake of a National Audit Office report which has said the risk of rising costs for high speed rail had not been fully assessed.
It follows a previous report suggesting the line – which would cut through parts of Lichfield and surrounding villages – could end up costing £106billion.
Mr Fabricant said the maths for the project in its current guise did not add up:
“With the National Audit Office trashing the economic viability of Phase 1 HS2, the Government needs to rethink connectivity between Birmingham and London.
“It is now clear that the current formulation is not the answer.
“In a month’s time, the Oakervee Review will be published, but with just three months to prepare their report, its chair already made it clear they would not have time to consider alternative routes and proposals for the London-Birmingham link.
“The deputy chair has already dismissed its conclusions as unrealistic and produced a comprehensive minority report. In any event, the Oakervee Review panel was stuffed with politicians and interested parties.
“The National Audit Office say that the current formulation of HS2 will generate just 80p of benefits for every £1 invested on Phase 1 and that the remaining part of the route is so underprepared, it is impossible to predict what the overall rate of return will be.
“In other words, HS2 makes no economic sense.”Michael Fabricant MP
“The costs are out of control”
Mr Fabricant has now urged the Government to go back to the drawing board and bring in external experts to fully assess whether HS2 can continue.
“I am now recommending to Government and to Number 10 that they commission a full and independent engineering review by a respected firm of independent consulting engineers and give them sufficient time to explore alternative routes and solutions.
“I believe that the route from Birmingham southwards should aspire to greater connectivity.
“Rail connections should continue beyond London to Heathrow – the busiest airport in Europe – and directly to the Channel Tunnel and Europe. This was the original vision for HS2.
“It should not be necessary for passengers to change stations at the West Midlands’ busiest rail interchange, Birmingham New Street, nor in London in order to continue a journey to the continent.
“And serious questions need to be asked as to whether high speed tilting trains could be used on enhanced existing rail lines instead of constructing an environmentally damaging new line destroying local habitats.
“The costs are out of control and HS2 has been badly mismanaged. It cannot continue as it is.”Michael Fabricant MP
Despite the criticism from the Conservative MP, business leaders in the Midlands have urged the Government to plough on with the project.
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said:
“Those against the project will no doubt point to the headline figures listed in relation to spiralling costs, but to be honest, these are nothing new.
“Let’s not forget that the only people who will lose out if HS2 doesn’t go ahead are the millions that voted for this Government to make good on their promise to deliver real change and level up the disparities between the regions and so our message to the Prime Minister is clear – cut the dithering and start delivering.”Paul Faulkner, Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce