Breaking news: Government will make final decision on HS2 at end of year

Breaking news
Breaking news

A final decision will be made on the future of the HS2 high-speed rail project which is set to be built through the Warwickshire countryside.

The Government will launch a review into the project taking into account benefits, affordability and deliverability before it makes a “go or no-go" decision" by the end of the year.

Kenilworth Stop HS2 protester Joe Rukin

Kenilworth Stop HS2 protester Joe Rukin

The controversial project would affect many Warwickshire residents including people living in Cubbington and Burton Green and many have protested against it for several years.

There are grave concerns about the loss of woodland and the impact the project will have on the countryside as well as the spiralling costs of the multi-billion pound project and actual need and use for the line.

The review will be chaired by Douglas Oakervee, a retired engineer and ally of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, in his time at City Hall.

Lord Berkeley, a railway expert and Labour peer, has been appointed deputy chair of the review committee.

He has repeatedly challenged the Department for Transport’s cost figures for HS2 and warned that the budgets were spiralling out of control.

Penny Gaines, chairwoman of Stop HS2, said: “While we welcome an independent review of HS2, having a former Chair of HS2 Ltd does not make it sound particularly independent.

"Right from the start government reviews of HS2 have been stuffed full of supporters of high speed rail, and have tended to come out with gushing praise for HS2.

"Meanwhile independent reviews have criticised HS2 for the massive costs, disruptionoutdated views of travel and the environmental damage HS2 will cause.

“We are particularly concerned that the terms of reference do not include the environmental costs of HS2. It will blast through numerous sensitive wildlife sites, including over 100 ancient woodlands. These are a real cost of the project and these environmental costs be included in the review.

“We are also really concerned that preparatory work is to continue. People’s lives and livelihoods are being overturned as well as the natural environment being wrecked as we speak by HS2 preparatory work.

“In addition, we are also concerned that HS2 Ltd are continuing to take people’s homes and businesses without paying for them, with possession orders in place at the moment, without HS2 Ltd paying people in a timely manner.

"Payments to people affected by HS2 through no fault of their own should be made immediately”

Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, added: “We have serious questions as to whether a review headed by former chair of HS2 could ever be described as independent and we worry, as happened in past, that they are simply going to go away and make up some increasingly outlandish and improbable numbers for jobs, and economic benefits, to justify this white elephant.

“Any review of this project must immediately look into whether and for how long Parliament has been misled about the cost of HS2.

"It must take evidence from all former staff who have been gagged by the company and it must investigate the accusations made by Lord Berkeley and others in Parliament that HS2 is rampant with fraud.

“If this is to be a genuine review as to whether to go ahead or not with the project, the government must cease all works immediately, because damage to irreplaceable habitats and ancient woodland is happening as we speak.

"This destruction must stop now, not in a couple of weeks, not in a couple of months, not at Christmas, now."

Midlands Connect explores, develops and recommends transport projects which will provide the most economic and social benefits for the Midlands and the rest of the UK.

Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, said: “The massive benefits of HS2 to the Midlands are already being felt.

"Although a review must rightly scrutinise the project’s deliverability, benefits and costs, we must not lose sight of the fact that HS2 will transform our transport network for the next century.

"Scrapping it or de-scoping it project will be a disaster for the Midlands and the whole country.

“We’re pleased that West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is on the review panel to promote the interests of the region.

"But it’s vital that the East Midlands isn’t ignored in this process either.

"Therefore, Midlands Connect will be submitting compelling evidence to the review concerning the benefits of HS2 to the whole of the Midlands.

“Far beyond those places with dedicated HS2 stations, many Midlands towns and cities will benefit from the rail capacity that HS2 will release.

"Midlands Connect has also submitted a strong business case to the government and HS2 Ltd for direct conventional-compatible links to Nottingham and Leicester city centres, via the HS2 East Midlands Hub at Toton.

“HS2 also underpins the case for improvements we’re proposing to the classic rail network, including our flagship Midlands Rail Hub scheme to transform east-west links across the Midlands.

“Doug Oakervee has already been in touch with Midlands Connect and we look forward to using his review to rally business and civic leaders from across the region once more to re-emphasise in the strongest possible terms that the Midlands needs HS2 to be built in full to rebalance the economy and unite the country.”