THE context is critical to the latest condemnation of HS2 by Labour peer Lord Berkeley who was deputy head of the official review into high-speed rail before quitting the role.
A longstanding opponent of HS2, his position has not changed – he maintains that the bill will exceed £100bn, double the estimated cost, and that the benefits have been much exaggerated.
But the 80-year-old, who hails for Surrey, appears to dismiss the need for additional capacity on the railways in the North, so more trains can run, and how HS2 is integral to Northern Powerhouse Rail.
And as the Government awaits the final recommendations of the review that Boris Johnson asked former HS2 boss Douglas Oakervee to undertake, it does, in fact, highlight the need for the Northern Powerhouse policy agenda to be put front and centre of the PM’s policy plans and Whitehall reforms.
This comes after Nicola Headlam, who was in charge of 10 Downing Street’s northern agenda during Theresa May’s premiership, confirms that the former government “didn’t care about the North” and how officials had to go “begging” for funds.
Change is underway. Mr Johnson did, in fact, accede to this newspaper’s call to promote the role of Northern Powerhouse Minister – currently held by Jake Berry – to the Cabinet – and Treasury chief secretary Rishi Sunak is currently overhauling longstanding funding rules so greater attention is given to the economic potential of the North.
Now Mr Johnson needs to go further – and order every Government department to prioritise the issue of regional inequalities. For, if related issues like HS2, rail investment and the economy of the North, had been co-ordinated from the outset, and not considered in isolation, many of the concerns of Lord Berkeley, and other vocal critics, could, potentially, have been allayed by now.