Cabinet minister Stephen Barclay says he believes HS2 WILL go ahead despite growing concerns about the spiralling £106 billion cost of the project and the risk of a Tory civil war
- Government expected to make a final decision on future of HS2 in coming weeks
- Estimates suggest planned rail network could end up costing as much as £106bn
- Tory MPs are bitterly divided on whether high speed project should go ahead
- Stephen Barclay today said his gut feeling is that HS2 will be given green light
A senior Cabinet minister today said he believes HS2 will be given the go ahead by the government despite rising concerns about the cost of the project and the prospect of a Tory civil war.
The government is expected to make a final decision in the coming weeks on whether to allow the proposed high speed railway network to proceed.
But Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to scrap the initiative after an official government review suggested costs could spiral to as much as £106 billion.
A large number of Conservative MPs are vehemently against the planned railway line which is designed to better connect London and a number of cities in the north of England.
But Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, said this morning it was his gut feeling that it will be given the green light.
He said the Tories had made a ‘clear commitment to level up all parts of the United Kingdom’ and that HS2 was a ‘key part’ in delivering on that.
Stephen Barclay, pictured arriving at the BBC in London this morning, said his gut feeling is that HS2 will be given the green light by the government
An official government review suggested HS2 could end up costing £106 billion having been costed at £56 billion in 2015
Mr Barclay is viewed in Westminster as a loyal supporter of Mr Johnson and his comments are therefore likely to be taken as a strong hint that the Prime Minister is leaning towards allowing the project to proceed.
His intervention came after it was claimed that even if HS2 is imminently scrapped it would still cost taxpayers £12 billion because of compensation payments and work already done.
Mr Barclay told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We have got a clear commitment to level up all parts of the United Kingdom.
‘That was a big part of our commitment at the general election and High Speed Two plays an important part in that.
‘But it is important we also get value for money. That is why the National Audit Office has been looking at this, it is also why we commissioned the additional review to look at the concerns in terms of the costs.
‘But above all we have got a very clear commitment to level up all parts of the UK.’
Told that costs for HS2 were spiralling out of control, Mr Barclay replied: ‘That is why we have commissioned the additional review to look at those costs. It is why the Transport Secretary has committed to being very transparent in terms of those costs and setting those out.
‘But above all we have a strong commitment to levelling up all parts of the United Kingdom.
‘High Speed Two is a key part of that, not just from speed but more from a capacity point of view in the line and that is a very clear commitment we have given the north.’
Asked if his gut feeling on the project going ahead was yes or no, he said: ‘Yes.’
The HS2 route would initially link London and Birmingham with the second phase of the project then heading north to Manchester and Leeds
HS2 would allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 250mph. That would mean much faster journeys between key UK cities. The graphic shows times for HS2 passengers (in red) verses the current times (in blue)
Mr Johnson will face a Tory rebellion if he scraps the project or if he agrees to proceed with it.
Some Tory MPs believe the project is crucial to boosting economic prosperity in the north of England while others are adamant it is a waste of money.
A group of anti-HS2 Conservative backbenchers published a video last week in which they called for it to be shelved and for the money to be spent on smaller infrastructure projects instead.
The National Audit Office said last week that the risks associated with HS2 had been under-estimated and it is impossible to ‘estimate with certainty what the final cost could be’.
A government-commissioned review led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Doug Oakervee leaked earlier this week stated that the project’s bill could reach £106billion, having been costed at £56billion in 2015.