The chair of the Transport Committee has slammed the government’s plan to delay the bill required to begin works on the second phase of High Speed 2 (HS2).
Lillian Greenwood said the decision to push the bill back a year “raises further doubts over the government’s commitment and willingness to invest in the Midlands and the North”, urging the government to be “transparent” in the reasons behind the delay.
The Department for Transport confirmed that it is pushing back the bill needed to begin work on the second section of the network between Manchester and Leeds to take account of Northern Powerhouse Rail linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.
Following the news, it was announced that the man overseeing Phase Two of High Speed 2, Phase Two managing director Paul Griffiths, would quit the company at the end of the year to lead the programme management team on the £25bn Metrolink job in Toronto, Canada.
Greenwood said that transport secretary Chris Grayling must now explain the situation “as soon as possible.”
“If true, this is a poor start to the new parliamentary year for the Transport Secretary,” she said. “It’s yet another potential delay to a large and complex transport infrastructure project and raises further doubts over the Government’s commitment and willingness to invest in the Midlands and the North.
“Ultimately, this project was meant to be the ‘great economic conduit’ for the North and part of the plans to rebalance economic growth in this country.
“Without HS2 Phase 2b, the potential transformation to connectivity across the Midlands and to the great cities of the North and Scotland will be lost.”
She added: “Serious cost concerns are raised - Ministers must be upfront with us about where the finances of this project stand and provide reassurances that they won’t derail the full scope of this project.
“The Government needs to be more transparent about why this decision has been made. It’s a poor show that MPs and the public are finding out through a third-party.”
The bill enabling the works for Phase 2b between Manchester and Leeds will now be tabled in 2020. However, the government insists that this will have no bearing on the final completion date.
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