Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has admitted there were mistakes in the handling of HS2 as the Government was accused of “incompetence” over the scheme.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post following today’s announcement that HS2 had been given the go-ahead, Mr Shapps said he was “not uncritical of the past” when addressing how long the project had taken to get off the ground.
And when asked about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism on why Boris Johnson should receive a “slap on the back” given the “abject failure” of successive Conservative governments in managing HS2, Mr Shapps said: “I share that sense of frustration [that] it’s taken so long to get here.”
Mr Shapps put the delays down to the Government-backed organisation which was in charge of the scheme, HS2 Ltd, and said: “I do think that the project;s taken far too long. The cost aspect has been well covered and I think HS2 Ltd themselves have not covered themselves in glory.”
But he added: “It’s clear to me that if you don’t now carry on, if you don’t go ahead, then we will just be back here in 10 or 15 years wondering how we can increase capacity.”
He also pushed back against the six-month period where it will be examined if HS2 can better integrate with Northern Powerhouse Rail, and whether cost savings can be found.
He said: “It’s not a pause and it’s not a review, we are doing it. So it is actually merely a question of when we first came up with HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail wasn’t even a thing. If anything, if it’s going either way it’s to try to speed up delivery, not slow it down.”
But Mr Shapps would not be drawn on whether plans would stay the same after the six months, amid fears places like Bradford could miss out on an NPR station. He said: “We’re going to do a consultation with Transport for the North on routing...with a number of different options, so that’s still to come.”
Despite criticisms from Labour and reserved optimism over specific areas from some leaders, the decision to back HS2 was broadly welcomed.
Anthony Smith, the chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “HS2 provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create more capacity and more reliable services. These new services will make train travel a more attractive choice and help contribute to battling climate change.”