IF THE economic and transport case for HS2 had been properly made in the first place, and high-speed rail leaders had worked constructively with local communities rather than antagonising them, the £56bn project might not be mired in so much controversy.
This political failure has simply emboldened opponents – and particularly opportunists like Boris Johnson who says that he will order an immediate review into the scheme’s viability if, as expected, he becomes Prime Minister.
The Tory leadership contender clearly has the ear of voters in his marginal West London constituency who are opposed to the new line because it will pass close to their homes.
Yet, if Mr Johnson does, in fact, succeed Mrs May, he will be expected to govern on behalf of the whole country and this means the long-term national interest taking precedence over short-term political and electoral calculations.
This is made clear by High Speed Rail Industry Leaders who today warn that there is “no plan B” if capacity is ever to be increased on the country’s creaking rail network. Noting how punctuality targets are having to be scaled back because commuter lines are so suggest, this report makes the most cogent case yet for HS2 and reveals how its benefits will extend far beyond the key locations which are due to be served by this state-of-the-art railway.
And it also explains how demand for long-distance travel is likely to grow and that the cost of HS2 amounts to “less than 0.4 per cent of total public spending in the period ahead”. Pointing out how HS2 is ready to be advanced while Northern Powerhouse Rail is still in the planning stage, it is a convincing case that Mr Johnson needs to consider carefully if he is serious about the country which gave the railways to the world having services that are belatedly fit for the 21st century.