Cheryl Gillan is the Member of Parliament for Chesham and Amersham. Follow Cheryl on Twitter.
Can it be coincidental that the HS2 paving bill has been scheduled for the same day as the spending review?
Yet the real, far from ironic, question for Parliamentary colleagues – and their constituents – to consider is how, and where, the £33 billion which has been reserved for High Speed 2 could, and should, be spent to best advantage for the nation and the taxpayer. People may think that HS2 does not affect them, but a project this large, paid for out of tax payers’ money will starve other areas and departments just by its sheer size.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) asked recently whether other investments in transport could provide better value for money for taxpayers – and whether other alternatives, which have not been explored by the Department for Transport, could actually out-perform HS2 in achieving greater rail capacity, fuelling economic growth, bridging the North-South divide and contributing to the green agenda.
Taking the pot of money which the government initially has put down on the counter to pay for HS2 – one single project – the NEF identified 88 individual projects which would upgrade our transport system, but which would also mean the UK could roll out fibre optic super-fast broadband across ten of our cities. Always presuming the Government will finally get better broadband connections for our cities, this money could be spent on those hard to reach areas and so even out the rural/city divide as well as the North/South differences.