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Minister resists calls to cancel HS2

THE transport minister responsible for HS2 has dismissed suggestions that HS2 should be cancelled, along with an allegation that the government ordered work on Phase 1 between London and Birmingham to start early last year to ‘bail out’ the construction industry.

Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Committee, Andrew Stephenson said cancellation would ‘send a terrible signal out globally’ about the UK intending to ‘build back better’ from the Covid-19 pandemic. It would also cause tens of thousands of jobs to be lost and waste taxpayers’ money.

He told the Committee: ‘At that stage there was no need for the government to give a bailout or additional support to the construction sector.’

He did not accept that cancellation would be a good idea, saying: ‘I think it would have a chilling impact on the construction sector. It would also have a chilling impact on inward investment. It’s hard to quantify what the exact costs would be of scrapping the programme now but it’s certainly something I would very strongly advise against.’

He added: ‘You can argue that Covid has affected the business case. But it’s worth thinking about the whole picture. If you look at the importance of infrastructure projects to the recovery of our nation after Covid, then I think the crisis has strengthened the case for it, not undermined it.’

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