HS2 Minister’s ‘good day to bury bad news’ tactic exposed – The Yorkshire Post says

THE continuing silence of Andrew Stephenson, the HS2 Minister, over high-speed rail’s eastern leg to Leeds needs to be placed in the context of his promotion to this role 18 months ago.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson during a visit to Leeds.

Uncertain about HS2 and its costs, Boris Johnson, on taking office, ordered a review which came down in favour of Britain’s largest ever infrastructure project. He then pledged to appoint a minister to “restore discipline”.

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This role was given to Mr Stephenson, in addition to his Northern Powerhouse Rail remit, and he vowed, on day one, to work to “deliver vital connections, spread prosperity and level up this country”.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson during a visit to Leeds.

This brief also included six-month updates to Parliament in addition to the questions that the DfT ministerial team, headed by Grant Shapps, regularly answer to MPs.

Yet, frankly, this week’s update was a contempt for democracy because it was a written statement that afforded MPs no chance to question the Minister on his 3,000 words – or decision to omit the eastern leg entirely amid speculation that it is to be ditched in favour of the spur from the West Midlands to Manchester.

This is not the greater transparency intended when Mr Stephenson took office in February 2020. Instead it is political cowardice indicative of the Government’s wider failure to engage and consult on HS2 in order to make the economic – and environmental case – for, potentially, the world’s greenest railway.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson during a visit to Leeds.

Finally this newspaper notes that Mr Stephenson concludes his remarks by saying: “I will continue to engage closely with Parliament and will provide my next report in spring 2022.” Yet, without proper dialogue, it will be another token exercise in futility – always assuming that the DfT doesn’t choose, just as it did in 2001 under New Labour, ‘a good day to bury bad news’, go back on its word and compromise the whole of HS2 by scrapping the eastern leg.

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