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High Speed 2: Campaigners blast new Transport Secretary
CAMPAIGNERS against High Speed 2 have blasted the new Transport Secretary after he dismissed their protests and pledged to fast track the £33bn scheme.
At the Conservative party conference this week Patrick McLoughlin, who recently became the Cabinet Minister in charge of the project, told national media the plans would not be disrupted.
Neither will there be a review into the business case following the fiasco with the West Coast Main Line franchise, which led to a humiliating apology from the Government.
Mr McLoughlin admitted Department for Transport officials had made major mistakes, which could now land the taxpayer with a £40m bill.
Amersham and Chesham MP Cheryl Gillan had called the department to re-examine the HS2 case after the glaring errors were revealed.
But the Transport Secretary has indicated there will not be.
He told the Independent: “All we get is grief. All we get is hassle. But one of the things that government has got to try and do is to look to the long-term future. Whichever route we’re going to put it on we’re going to upset people.”
He said he would love to fast track the scheme if he could.
Joe Rukin, campaign coordinator for Stop HS2 said: “Mr McLoughlin is trying the same old trick, trying to pass us off as just a bunch nimbies and says we are missing the point, but it is he who is missing the point.
“His Government keeps getting grief and hassle because they are pig-headed about a project which is massively expensive, environmentally disastrous, not what the country needs and will not deliver on its promises. The New Economics Foundation, The Institute of Economic Affairs, The Adam Smith Institute and The Taxpayers Alliance all oppose HS2, and even the Institute of Engineering and Technology have said the plans are fundamentally flawed, but he wants to stick his fingers in his ears and pretend the opposition is all about the route.”
He pointed to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee's comments recently that the economic modelling has been 'bonkers' and The National Audit Office's investigation.
Thomas Crane, Director, HS2 Action Alliance, blasted the unwillingness to review HS2 in the light of the West Coast errors, saying: “We would have thought that a project with a cost of £33 billion to tax payers would have at least warranted a proper review when the DfT is so clearly unfit for purpose following the WCML franchise fiasco."
The Government says the scheme will boost the economy, bridge the north-south divide and provide much needed extra capacity on the rail network.
Campaigners say it is unaffordable and will wreck beautiful Chilterns countryside.