Minister hints the government WILL ‘take the plunge’ over HS2 despite warnings over rising £106billion cost
- Government expected to make final decision on future of HS2 maybe within days
- Estimates suggest planned rail network could end up costing as much as £106bn
- Justice Secretary Robert Buckland suggests government will ‘take the plunge’
- Stephen Barclay said yesterday his gut feeling is that HS2 will get the green light
Another senior Cabinet minister has hinted that the government will ‘take the plunge’ with the HS2 project despite alarm over mounting costs.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland stressed no final decisions have yet been made on the high speed network and there was ‘genuine debate’.
But he insisted Boris Johnson ‘waxes lyrical’ about the need for major infrastructure improvements, and suggested HS2 could be part of a wider ambitious agenda to ‘level up’ the UK.
The government is expected to make a final decision potentially within days over whether to allow the proposed railway network to proceed.
However, the PM has been under mounting pressure to scrap the initiative after an official government review suggested costs could spiral to as much as £106billion.
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.
An official government review suggested HS2 could end up costing £106billion having been costed at £56 billion in 2015
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland (pictured at Cabinet last week) stressed no final decisions have yet been made on HS2 and there was ‘genuine debate’
Speaking on the BBC’s Westminster Hour, Mr Buckland said there might not be an ‘either/or choice’ between HS2 and other schemes.
Highlighting the massive improvements during the Victorian era, he insisted: ‘Taking the plunge and building these major infrastructure projects is the right thing to do, even though it is deeply controversial.
‘The overall effects of this will be felt for generations to come.’
Mr Buckland said: ‘There is a genuine debate within government about the way forward. The decision has not yet been taken.’
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said yesterday it was his gut feeling that HS2 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 the high-speed rail network was a ‘key part’ in delivering on that.
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
Stephen Barclay, pictured arriving at the BBC in London yesterday, said his gut feeling is that HS2 will be given the green light by the government
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)
Over the weekend it was claimed that even if HS2 is imminently scrapped it would still cost taxpayers £12billion because of compensation payments and work already done.
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 underplayed and it was 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.