COMBATING criticism over HS2’s spiralling cost assessment, Prime Minister Boris Johnson chose to make a “historic choice” of going ahead with project on Tuesday (11).
He said it was part of strengthening the “spine” of connectivity in the process of solving the “great musculoskeletal problem of UK transport”.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has strongly defended his backing for the HS2 project, saying that he gave the “green light” after thoroughly weighing the “pros and cons”.
In an article in The Telegraph, Javid reiterated his view that the decision on HS2 was taken after “careful consideration”.
“More than anything else, it will add much-needed capacity to one of the UK’s busiest routes and create greater North-South connectivity,” he said.
He noted that 20,000 passengers will be able to travel between Euston, Birmingham and Manchester every hour, more than double the current volume.
“But as Chancellor let me be clear, this investment will come with scrutiny,” he assured.
Javid said he was “alarmed” at the cost escalation and that the recent government review was a “serious exercise”.
“Our reform package for HS2 will now ensure the project is delivered more efficiently and cost-effectively,” he said, adding that the project was part of the government’s mission of ‘levelling up’.
He said it was imperative to invest in major projects to transform the way people travel.
“It’s right that our infrastructure revolution includes the big national projects like HS2—which is actually the biggest engineering project underway anywhere in Europe,” he noted.
Drawing attention to the “£5 billion we announced yesterday for buses and bikes”, Javid said the “revolution” would involve local projects too.
He added that having “come from a bus driving family”, he knew how “buses connect people with their communities”.
As buses were the most popular form of public transport, with about 12 million journeys a day, the government was “funding better bus services so people can soon enjoy faster, greener and more frequent bus travel”, he said.
“Let me be clear, when it comes to investing in major projects or local networks it’s not a case of either/or,” said Javid, adding that both were equally important in making Britain “match fit for the opportunities ahead”.
As work on HS2 was set to begin in April, Javid said the government would take note of past failures of leadership, transparency and cost control.
The government, he added, would appoint a dedicated minister, and HS2 Ltd will have to regularly report to Parliament.
“We made a promise to the British people to deliver a decade of renewal,” said Javid. “And that is exactly what we will do.”