Cheryl 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Main Line contract was revoked by the Department in part due to errors in the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.
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.