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MPs say there's still no convincing case for HS2
AN INFLUENTIAL group of MPs have ruled the Department for Transport has "not yet presented a convincing case" for building HS2.
A report published today by the Public Accounts Committee raised questions over the preparation work carried out by the DfT and HS2 Ltd, the two bodies behind the controversial scheme.
And the report said the project was based on 'fragile numbers' and out of date information.
The report said: "The Department for Transport has not yet presented a convincing case for the now £42.6 billion investment it is proposing to invest in High Speed 2. The estimates of costs and benefits are still far from finalised and the pattern so far has been for costs to increase and benefits to decrease.
"The Department’s timetable for preparing and passing the legislation needed to build and operate the line appears unrealistic and overly ambitious, which raises concerns about the quality of the Department and HS2 Limited’s preparation work, including the route design.
"So far the Department has made decisions based on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life."
Responding to the report, Independent Chiltern District Councillor Seb Berry said: "MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have delivered another crushing blow to Mr Cameron's white elephant scheme.
"The Transport department's response that they are working on the figures just about sums up this farce of a project and the arrogant, cynical political calculations that lie behind it.
"People have had enough and not just along the route. The PAC report coincides with the latest Yougov opinion poll on HS2, which shows that national support for the scheme is now down at less than 30 per cent with 55 per cent wanting HS2 scrapped. The parts of the UK showing strongest levels of opposition to HS2 include those that are supposed to benefit most, such as the Midlands.
"It's time that the Prime Minister listened to this growing chorus of opposition from all around the country, stop fiddling the figures and finally put HS2 out of its misery."
Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan said: "This PAC report – which is by a cross-party committee with great expertise in examining the efficiency and effectiveness of government – is damning.
"It shows that Ministers have been cavalier in their approach, just trying to ram HS2 through without a thorough examination of the alternatives or even the poor advice they have been receiving.
"The taxpayer deserves better than this when £50 billion-plus is at stake. The government should now cancel the project and re-evaluate alternatives for improving the rail network.
"However if they are going to press on regardless, at the very least, if HS2 is no longer about speed but about capacity they should re-examine the route as it does not need to violate an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It could now be routed more effectively using existing transport corridors.
"The economic case, which has been so sadly lacking, is being rewritten for a projected release later this week. That will again need careful examination as the calculations on this project have such a miserable track record."
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