Call for unity over HS2 as MP Philip Davies urges Government to scrap 'white elephant' scheme

Tory MP Philip Davies has urged the Government to scrap HS2 as business leaders called for all sides to come together and “focus on the bigger picture”.

The Oakervee review into the future of HS2 is expected imminently, and national reports have suggested it will recommend scrapping the line from the East Midlands to Leeds to save £10bn.

But speaking in Parliament today Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, said: “Six regional heads of the CBI say that HS2 should be built in full and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership recently published it’s excellent independent review which said the same, arguing that only HS2 can really rebalance our economy.”

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Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the review would advise the Government on the next steps, but Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley urged Mr Zahawi to ignore Ms Powell.

He said: “Most people in the North accept that HS2 is a catastrophic waste of money, a huge white elephant, which is destroying the environment and the countryside, and which will only benefit chiefly London hence why it started out in London in the first place.

“Can I urge him to tell the Secretary of State for Transport to scrap HS2 and crack on with the thing that will really benefit the Northern economy which is Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS3 connecting the north?”

Speaking afterwards Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Philip Davies certainly doesn’t speak for business people across the North including in Yorkshire who have been steadfast in their support for both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail as shown through the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce joining with those such as Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s Independent Review as well as the overwhelming weight of the rest of West Yorkshire MPs, including Conservative and Labour members, all last week alone.

“Cancelling HS2 without another mechanism to unlock the needed transport connectivity to address North - South divide is irresponsible, and hard pressed commuters as well as freight all benefit from the new line up the East and West as part of Phase 2b unlocking existing capacity.

Conservative MP for Shipley Philip Davies. Photo: JPI Media

“I would caution anyone telling people here in Yorkshire that our congested rail network is not already creaking, due to the fundamental issue of the infrastructure not being there to underpin longer term growth in the economy.”

It comes as Sheffield Chamber of Commerce chief Richard Wright said disagreements between Northern councils could give extra impetus for the Government to pull the plug on the eastern HS2 leg through South Yorkshire.

While both Sheffield and Barnsley are backing the project, Rotherham and Doncaster have called for the eastern leg to be scrapped if the main South Yorkshire station is not moved from Sheffield back to Meadowhall, which was the original plan.

But Mr Wright said: “The combined authority need trying to pull everyone together and focus on the bigger picture moving forward.”

He said it was “disappointing” to see differences just weeks after the council leaders signed the Integrated Rail Plan which included HS2 and the current route.

He said: “It’s like they signed it and then turned around and said it was a waste of time because they actually didn’t agree with it, which is terrible.

“We could end up with a situation where HS2 doesn’t come through the region and that would be a disaster the regional economy.”