Time for the Government to come clean over state of HS2

The Government is trying to pretend that HS2 is on schedule – when in reality it’s mired in behind-the-scenes disagreements, and has absolutely no chance of being finished on time or on budget.

That’s the claim made by UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour, who has accused transport secretary Chris Grayling and his cabinet colleagues of being ‘in denial’ over the state of the project.

The West Midlands MEP’s comments echo concerns raised by veteran peer Lord Berkeley, who chairs the Rail Freight Group.

Mrs Seymour said: “It’s time for a reality check, and some honesty. From the stories which are now emerging, the organisation of HS2 appears to be nothing short of a total shambles.

“The HS2 management company is at odds with several of its contractors and joint venture suppliers, and it’s pushing the production schedule back by many months and piling billions onto the budget.

“And all the time, people whose lives are set to be destroyed by the route of the HS2 vanity project are left in a state of emotionally shattering uncertainty as they await news of what is actually going on.

“While businesspeople bicker around the table about how to spend eye-watering sums of our money, innocent families are having their worlds torn apart, and their concerns are being ignored. It’s totally unacceptable.”

She added: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the first phase of HS2 can’t meet the Government’s £24.3 billion budget, and won’t be completed by the planned 2026 opening date, but everyone who has jumped aboard the HS2 gravy train is in denial.

“The Government doesn’t want to admit that it has turned into a nightmare which the country cannot afford, and does not have the support of the majority of the electorate.

“Perhaps we should not be surprised, though – these are the same politicians who are currently trying their best to thwart the Brexit referendum at every turn, so maybe a democratically expressed view isn’t worth the paper it’s written on these days.”

The Government has refused to publicly share its detailed cost estimates for HS2, citing commercial sensitivity. It has also insisted that a contingency plan has been built into the budget to take account of any unplanned delays.

But Mrs Seymour said: “I challenge the Government to be open and honest with us about what’s really going on with HS2. If they have nothing to be ashamed of, then they have nothing to hide.

“Even though only a small fraction of British people will ever use the service, every single taxpayer in the UK will pay for it. We have a right to know what’s going on, and how the Government is spending our money.

“And if, when all the cards are on the table, it’s crystal clear that HS2 makes no business sense and is not offering value for money, we should simply scrap the whole thing.”