Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged government to “pull the plug” on High Speed 2 (HS2).
Speaking exclusively to New Civil Engineer at the Conservative Party Conference, Rees-Mogg said that the scheme should be scrapped and the money “better spent elsewhere”.
Highlighting the need to invest in local rail and road projects, Rees-Mogg proposed a bypass in Bath as a scheme which could be funded by reclaiming the £52bn set aside to deliver HS2. Rees-Mogg is MP for North East Somerset.
“I think it is absolutely time to face the facts and pull the plug on the HS2 project,” Rees-Mogg told New Civil Engineer. “I think we must face up to reality and not get sucked into a sunk cost fallacy situation.
“We must not fall foul of investing more time and money into something just because we have already invested a lot into it.”
He added: “I actually think we should spend more money on smaller infrastructure projects around the country.
“There are plenty of smaller rail and road schemes and I would like to see the focus switched to those.
“In particular I would like to see the delivery of a bypass in Bath, for example.”
Rees-Mogg’s comments follow strong criticism for the high speed rail project by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
In a Sunday Times interview released on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference, Johnson said: “There are projects we should have on transport in the North of the country that ought to take precedence over HS2.
“It’s crazy how long it takes to get east-west across the country.”
Johnson again called for a feasibility study for a bridge between the UK and Ireland, urging government to use the money set aside for HS2 to carry out the project.
The leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom also called for the rail line to be halted, on the eve of the party’s conference.
Backers of the scheme have been quick to dismiss calls to scrap the line. Business secretary Greg Clark said halting the scheme now is “completely the wrong decision”.
“We’ve made a decision to invest in HS2 - I think it’s important that we follow through with that,” he said.
However, transport secretary Chris Grayling turned down the opportunity to defend HS2 in his speech at the conference, instead focussing on a new funding scheme for trunk roads around the country.
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