TRANSPORT SECRETARY Grant Shapps has called for more information before a decision is made about HS2.
A leaked copy of the Oakervee Review is reported to have given the scheme a ‘lukewarm’ welcome, but it also says the total cost is set to be some £106 billion, compared with the £55.7 billion at 2015 prices which ministers were still insisting was correct as recently as last summer.
The Review by former HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee should have been published at the end of last year, but it has been delayed, along with the ‘root and branch’ review of the wider railway industry which has been carried out by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams for the Department for Transport.
Various options are apparently included in the Oakervee conclusions, including a possible ‘pause’ in building the later phases beyond Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
Mr Shapps said on Sky News that he had told Douglas Oakervee: ‘Give me the facts, give me the data, give us the information so we can make a proper informed decision.’
He continued: ‘I’ve always approached this from a relatively neutral point of view and that information will help to inform a decision that is best for the whole country. We’ll be making a final decision, along with the prime minister and the chancellor, on this very shortly.’
The prospect of taking the new line no further north than Birmingham has dismayed the Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham.
He said: ‘To me that would be the same old story. London to Birmingham, money is no object, and then all the penny pinching is done in the North of England.’
Meanwhile, the chairman of Connect Chairman Sir John Peace has written to the Prime Minister, urging him to publish the Oakervee review in full as soon as possible, and warning him again that any delay or downgrade of High Speed Two would be a ‘betrayal’ of the Midlands and the North.
Sir John said: ‘Further leaks and uncertainty are simply unacceptable. The time has come to release the review and give the Midlands, our businesses and investors the certainty we need to plan for a bright future.
‘To delay and downgrade HS2 north of Birmingham would be a betrayal of the Midlands and the North. We need a modern, fast and reliable railway to link our great towns and cities sustainably.
‘The cost is high, but the need is even greater.
‘Any further delay or downgrades of the project will send the wrong message to the people of our region, but it will also send the wrong message to foreign investors who see Britain as an opportunity for growth after Brexit.’