Posted 25th October 2019 | 3 Comments

New uncertainty over status of HS2 review

THE ‘make or break’ review into the future of HS2 being carried out by Douglas Oakervee and Lord (Tony) Berkeley may have been delayed by wider political uncertainties, including the possibility of a General Election, according to the Government’s critics.

There were clashes in the House of Commons on 24 October when Labour Co-operative MP Rachael Maskell, who represents York Central, claimed that ministers are sitting on the report for political reasons.

She said: ‘Not only has the Williams review yet to see the light of day, but the Oakervee report is ready. His team has pulled out all the stops to get this to the Minister next week, so why is the Secretary of State saying that he will not publish it until after the general election? Is it because he intends to cut off the economic opportunities of the north, or is he worried that it will upset voters in the south?’

HS2 minister Paul Maynard, whose own constituency is in Lancashire, responded: ‘I will take no lectures from the hon. Lady on how to support the north economically, or indeed, in transport terms. I am delighted that she lives in a world of alternate reality—neither the Secretary of State nor I have received Mr Oakervee’s report. She clearly knows more than I do, or maybe she is making it up.’

Meanwhile, Conservative MP for Lichfield Michael Fabricant claimed: ‘Doug Oakervee has told me that the amount of time they have to consider all this is very limited—it is very challenging indeed—and there is not enough time to consider alternative routes, so will the Minister consider giving them more time to do just that?’

A few minutes later transport secretary Grant Shapps insisted the Oakervee conclusions are not yet known and that there is no time limit, when he answered another question from Conservative Dame Cheryl Gillan, whose constituency of Chesham and Amersham is on the route of HS2 phase 1.

Mr Shapps told MPs: ‘I have not seen any of it, not even its emerging conclusions. When Oakervee is ready, he will present that report. I stick with everything I said. This is very important. As soon as we have this information, I will make it available to the House.’

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said the government should ‘stop dithering’: ‘It’s taking far too long to get off the slow lane and build the high-speed network our economy needs and our rail passengers deserve. The Tories must stop dithering and instead give the go ahead for this project not just to be completed but to be extended all the way to Scotland,’ he said.

When the Oakervee Review was announced on 21 August, the DfT said only that it was due to publish its findings ‘in the autumn’.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Steve Peas, Lichfield

    Mr Fabricant is being disingenuous: The terms of reference of the Oakervee review did not ask it to consider alternate routes. A dishonest politician - who'd have thought it.

    In any case, how would a route change cost less? A redesign would incur additional costs and blight a whole new group of people.Not to mention the current works would then be abandoned incurring more costs in remediation. And a new act of Parliament would be required.

    Surely the Oakervee review was about buying a few votes in the Tory shires to get Boris into Nr10 then put off pulling the trigger until after a general election.It may even serve to help dress up the recent cost increases.

    The need for increased rail capacity is not going to go away by ignoring it or procrastinating. Kicking the can down the road increases cost rather than reducing it. Though Parliament has demonstrated prodigious can kicking ability of late.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    So much for a short & timely review. One would have expected that the review team have had sight of the projects books to make an informed opinion of the validity of the costs & delivery timescales being proposed.

    Stage 1 of HS2 has already been through exhaustive & lengthy consultation & legislation stages approving the route. Those opposed to the route have had ample time to have to express their views & much of the cost escalation has been incurred in designing reasonable mitigating measures.

    The project is at the stage where the serious construction contracts are at the point where they should be being let. Delay can only add to further escalation of the cost.

    Throughout the parliamentary process this project has been endorsed with cross party support. Unfortunately it's current fate appears to rest with an insecure government perhaps looking to shore up short term support amongst it's supporters in the few home counties constituencies traversed by the route.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Rather seems to illustrate the downsides of the railway being under governmental control. Renationalisation isn't the answer !