I am deeply concerned by the rising cost of HS2 and the possibility that the Northern section of HS2 could be scaled back to a second-rate version.
A leaked Government review has shown that the cost of HS2 could now be as a high as £106bn, almost double the ‘current’ £56bn. We should all pause for a second and note how farcical this saga is.
Despite the Government’s reassurances, I completely understand why rail passengers, and tax payers, are becoming ever more concerned about the ballooning cost of this project. Part of the review states that the Government will try to lower the cost of the project through multiple initiatives; I wish them luck in this endeavour as the cost has done nothing but soar over the last few years.
The leaked report also states that the Government is considering ‘pausing’ the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds sections of HS2, even though HS2 was initially advertised as having many economic benefits for the north. However, there is no real guarantee that the line will be built up to Manchester and therefore no guarantee of the potential benefits for our region.
One such promised benefit was the creation of jobs in the North. However, this hypothetical benefit was over-exaggerated from the start, especially once we found out that the construction work would begin in the South-East with workers from that region. If the line does manage to be built up to Manchester, they are not likely to fire all their workers and hire new, northern workers.
Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has commented on this matter, stating that: “It’s the same old story. London and the South gets whatever it wants, and it’s all about penny-pinching in the North”. This is the same penny-pinching which we have all seen the first-hand effects of.
I am utterly disappointed by the gross neglect of the North in terms of providing adequate rail services that match the standard of that in the South of England. I firmly believe that there should be no difference in standard between the services provided in the South of England to that of the North or any other region for that matter. However, it has come to my attention on numerous occasions how the sub-standard rail services in the North of England continue to negatively affect passengers on a daily basis.
If the politicians in Whitehall want to build HS2 so badly, then they should spend more time working to deliver it under-budget and ahead of schedule than hyping-up the mythical benefits for the North. For me, HS3 would be a far better investment in the North, as it would create a link between all of our major cities.
However, both of these projects should be a lower priority than ensuring that the North, and the rest of the country, has a rail network that works and doesn’t cost passengers an arm and a leg.