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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”

An artist’s impression of HS2

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

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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7 Comments

  1. So the government pays out 106 billion (or more) to the construction and material supply industry and the construction and material supply industry fills the coffers of the Tory party (and probably a few individuals) with donations ! Why have you got a problem with that?

  2. There is an inevitability to this that should not surprise anyone. The Government has put construction and infrastructure front and centre of its plans to stimulate the construction industry following a trend first started by Cameron’s administration. So HS2 is – and always has been – one of the most important projects for this overall plan and no amount of opposition was going to prevent this scheme going ahead. That is why the Notice to Proceed has now been issued. It is also why we can expect even greater pressure to build more houses in the years to come.

    This and previous Government have consistently ignored the construction industry when it comes to identifying priorities and ploughed ahead with what they hope are headline grabbing proposals that convince the statisticians – if no-one else – that our construction industry is healthy. The simple truth is, our housing market remains in deep crisis even with an emphasis on housebuilding and despite HS2, Crossrail and a few other “highlight” schemes, our infrastructure is in dire straits too.

    The Government has reviewed and changed building regulations in the wake of Grenfell Tower, yet these do not go far enough and the industry remains highly critical of the inaction.

    All these issues show how ineffectual the Government remains and also that it has no intention of listening to anyone when developing its policies.

    Our MP is just as ineffectual in his opposition to HS2. He should have stayed at his Welsh holiday home during lockdown wearing his pink shorts and got his local friends to carry on sending him photos of Lichfield so he could post them on social media and maintain the illusion that he is remotely bothered about his constituency.

  3. Long overdue approval, this should have started years ago, but as per usual we’re rubbish at getting these projects mobilised, m6 toll, cross rail,
    M25, m42, 4 tracking trent valley, but of course non of those were needed were they. Don’t make me laugh

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