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Cheryl Gillan MP: After the West Coast Main Line trouble, the case for HS2 needs to be fundamentally re-examined

GILLAN CHERYL NEWCheryl Gillan is the Member of Parliament for Chesham and Amersham. Follow Cheryl on Twitter.

The decision earlier this week by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, to scrap the West Coast Main Line contract has brought into question the overall integrity of the Department for Transport’s decision-making process. With this in mind, I believe that a root and branch re-examination of the whole of the High Speed 2 rail project and its viability is now essential.

On the day the news broke of the cancellation of the West Coast Mainline contract, I wrote to the Secretary of State, asking him to:

  • urgently undertake a complete re-examination of HS2’s ever-worsening business case
  • re-evaluate the case for the project
  • look again at the basis on which all decisions have been made by the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd. 

The West Coast Main Line contract was revoked by the Department in part due to errors in the way in which inflation and passenger numbers had been calculated. The business case and passenger forecasts for HS2 are based on similar assumptions and methodology, and must therefore be revisited as a matter of urgency.

At a cost of more than £32 billion, as calculated in 2011 but not yet updated, I want to ensure that the Government does not make one of the biggest mistakes in history by spending money on the largest infrastructure project in peacetime based on dodgy calculations and incorrect information.

I know first-hand that my constituents have little confidence in the diligence of the development process for HS2 and this week’s revelations have undermined this even further. This latest development is in addition to a report of yet more omitted responses to the analysis of last year’s public consultation on HS2 by Dialogue by Design, questionable engineering calculations and a failure by the Department to take into account the forthcoming Davies Review into the United Kingdom’s airport capacity.

The latter stance is totally illogical. Any railway development and/or enhancement needs to take into account future transport planning and I believe that HS2 should not proceed without the development of a fully integrated transport plan. The recent doubts expressed over a lack of connectivity to London Heathrow would inevitably involve re-routing. This would be in addition to the £65 million cost that has already been incurred by the public purse due to HS2.

I discussed this very issue with our Shadow Secretary of State whilst in opposition. This approach – if this project proceeded – would have removed the line from passing through Chesham and Amersham and would reduce the damage to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This project is having a devastating effect on the communities that I represent and has done so since March 2010. My constituents are confronted with a rail proposal that lacks the most basic requirement of a transport project, a route. This is at best unacceptable and at worst it threatens to play havoc, continually, with people’s lives by prolonging the Government’s timetable for the next stage of this project - the introduction of a Hybrid Bill at the end of 2013.

I believe that clarity is the minimum my constituents deserve. I hope the Secretary of State will act fast to carry out the necessary re-assessment.


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