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Campaigners have branded the decision to issue the green light for work on HS2 as “shamelessly opportunistic”.
The controversial high speed rail route – which will cut through parts of Lichfield and surrounding villages – has been granted a notice to proceed by the Department for Transport.
The Government say the move will secure jobs in the construction by allowing £12billion worth of contracts to be handed out.
But campaigners from the Stop HS2 group say the line has still not demonstrated the affordability of contracts and the robustness of a revised business case which should have been in place for the notice to be issued.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said:
“Issuing HS2 with notice to proceed at a time when there is next to no scrutiny taking place is not only shamelessly opportunistic, but it is pretending that coronavirus isn’t happening, and that it will not change the world.
“It is absolutely clear that one of the lasting impacts of coronavirus will be to reduce the need for long-distance travel in the future, so HS2 Ltd have decided to ignore this completely, because taking account of what is happening right now in the real world would absolutely destroy the case for HS2.
“Committing billions of pounds to a white elephant to protect a handful of construction companies will absolutely come back to bite the Government, because when the dust settles following the current crisis, hundreds if not thousands of well-run firms will go to the wall for lack of funding which Government has squandered on HS2.”Joe Rukin, Stop HS2
But Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, said the news would bring benefits to the nation’s economy.
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“In these difficult times, the announcement represents both an immediate boost to the construction industry – and the many millions of UK jobs that the industry supports – and an important investment in Britain’s future.
“It will level up the country, improve our transport network and change the way we travel to help bring down carbon emissions and improve air quality for the next generation.”Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd
“Too great a cost”
HS2 Ltd say around 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities will be created for UK businesses during Phase One of HS2 and said that the notice would safeguard thousands of jobs.
But Mr Rukin said the timing should be questioned given the nation is currently in the grip of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The decision comes as no surprise, as over the last couple of months coronavirus has been seen as an opportunity.
“HS2 is a project that comes at too great a cost to our wildlife, that ignores the ongoing climate emergency, and we are certain there will be a legal challenge to this decision.”Joe Rukin, Stop HS2
The notice means civil contractors can start work immediately on detailed design and site preparation works.
HS2 Ltd CEO Mr Thurston said:
“HS2 has been over ten years in development and design. While the country’s focus is rightly on defeating COVID-19, the issuing of notice to proceed ensures that our contractors and their supply chains have the confidence that they can commit to building HS2, generating thousands of skilled jobs across the country as we recover from the pandemic.”Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd