HS2 divides the Conservative Party

Prominent Conservatives, including a former Chancellor, plead with the Prime Minister to persist with HS2, despite reports that the project is two to three times over budget and may not benefit the areas of England that it was intended to.

Boris Johnson set up a review into the project when he entered Number 10 last summer. But according to the former deputy chairman of the project, Lord Berkeley, the previous reports seriously ‘misled’ parliamentarians and went on the claim that the project is ‘completely out of control financially’.

Unlike the Greens and the Brexit Party, the Conservative manifesto failed to commit to scrapping the project. Instead, their manifesto made it clear that “HS2 is a great ambition, but will now cost at least £81 billion and will not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040. We will consider the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings and work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome.”

However, some of the Conservative MPs did make clear that they would oppose the creation of the 4o0-mile long rail network, including Owen Paterson and David Davis. Boris Johnson has also made it clear that projects without full costings and deemed unsustainable are at risk of being scrapped.

However, George Osborne, former Chancellor and architect of the ‘northern powerhouse’, as well as Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor, pleaded with Boris Johnson not to scrap the project.

The now Editor of The Evening Standard hopes that his project goes ahead because it will enable the north to connect with the capital. This is despite research that indicates that a majority of businesses will travel south bound to London.

In an interview with the BBC Today programme, the former Chancellor said that ‘HS2 is absolutely critical to changing the economic geography of this country.’ He went on to add that the government should extend upon HS2 with a HS3 project that would build across the north of England.

Andy Street cited another Conservative pledge to ‘level up’ spending across the United Kingdom as a reason to persist with the project, claiming that HS2 “is an absolutely critical way of achieving that.” He went on to insist that if the government back-peddled on HS2 that it would be a ‘hammer blow’ to the economy in the Midlands and to the jobs that the project has already created.

The mayor for the West Midlands also believes that the project has the support of many voters who conditionally supported Boris Johnson last December. He said that these voters ‘are now expecting him to deliver on his promise to rebalance the economy and power up our region. The first clear and decisive step that can be taken to fulfil that promise is to back HS2.’

By J Walters

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