Guest column: I have lost all confidence in HS2

Sir Kevin Barron MPSir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron MP
For many years, I have supported HS2 as I truly believed that it would help bridge the divide between the north and London.

I even defended the astonishing cost to many in Rother Valley as I felt that it would benefit people in my constituency. But I believe the case has become flaky at best due to a number of factors.

In a report published by the Public Accounts Committee, it raised a number of serious issues.

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It states that there is concerns due to a combination of poor financial controls and other systems.

It highlights the fact that HS2 was set up eight years ago with substantial Government backing and yet still shows a lack of organisational maturity.

Given the huge budget that HS2 has been provided with, this is truly concerning. The Government currently says HS2 will cost £55.7 billion to build.

The costs originally started at £32.7 billion in 2010 and were last updated in 2015.

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Yet the National Audit Office stated in 2016 that HS2 was running £7 billion over budget, a fact not contested by HS2, which should put the official cost at £63 billion.

I believe we can do so much more with this money, in particular the line electrification plan, which this Government scrapped.

Most business leaders believe if the north is to thrive it is the links between northern cities which need to be improved, not another route to London.

With all this in mind, I no longer believe that HS2 is likely to fulfil the aims it was designed to achieve.

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Therefore, this week I voted against further extension of HS2 as I no longer have confidence in HS2 Limited or the Government to oversee it.

Sadly we lost the vote against the Government but I will continue to highlight the issues with this scheme.

This week we also held a vote on the refurbishment of Parliament. Considering the age of the Palace of Westminster, and the long-term under-investment in the fabric and the intensive use to which the Palace is put, it is remarkable that it continues to function.

The signs of wear and tear, the number and frequency of relatively minor floods and mechanical breakdowns, and the large sums that are now having to be spent on aggressive maintenance and risk reduction all provide evidence of the looming crisis.

I also highlighted the fact much of the stone used in the construction was brought to London from Anston quarry and that it should be used again during any repair work.