Jim McMahon called on the Government to “do what they say they’re going to do” and deliver the HS2 rail project in full, including the Eastern Leg from Birmingham to Leeds, stressing to
Labour conference delegates the need to “plan for the transport of the future”.
His comments come amid weeks of swirling speculation that the Eastern Leg of HS2 between the Midlands city and Yorkshire will be scrapped due to soaring budgets and other constraints.
Speaking at the Brighton event yesterday, Mr McMahon said: “On HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail we have a generational responsibility to plan for the transport of the future that we might not get the benefit of today.
“One of the biggest criticisms of HS2 is, you build it today but you aren’t going to see it for decades so why are you doing it, why are you taking that political hit of riding through the countryside, disrupting town and city centres, spending billions of pounds that in office you politically are not going to see the benefit of, why would you do that?
“I say because that’s your generational responsibility to do that, you have to do that.”
Pushed on whether the project should still go ahead in full, the MP for Oldham West and Royton said: “We’ve been very clear, the Government should do what they say they’re going to do which is commit to HS2 in its entirety.”
Delays to HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail were also raised in front of a larger crowd during Mr McMahons showpiece address to conference.
“We’ve lost count of the number of times Boris Johnson said HS2 would be built in full,” he said.
“And the same is true of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“It’s been seven years since that was first promised, seven years.
“And not a single spade has gone in the ground, not a single mile of track built.”
Mr McMahon also told the annual conference that the Government risked leaving “Christmas ruined for the nation” as a result of the ongoing crisis in HGV driver numbers, and said Ministers “could have done more” to attract workers into those positions.
Drivers across the UK scrambled to fill their tanks with petrol in recent days, as the shortage of drivers began to hit availability at the pumps.
Speaking in the main conference hall earlier on Sunday, the Shadow Minister recalled his own Dad’s job as a truck driver and told attendees: “The truth is the Tories have failed to value good working class jobs.
“They have failed to invest in those jobs and now we are all paying the price.
“We have a 90,000 HGV driver shortage, leaving supermarket shelves empty and busiesses without vital supplies, and it’s only going to get worse.”
He later added: “This Tory Government could and should have done more to attract people to the industry, to value those votal jobs.
“We’ve warned them.
“If you don’t act now shelves will continue to be bare, with medicines not delivered and Christmas ruined for the nation”.
The Government has announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 foreign HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers allowed into the UK on three-month contracts up to Christmas Eve.
This is an attempt to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and tackle fuel delivery difficulties as the country heads towards the colder months.
But the British Retail Consortium warned the decision to relax immigration rules to fix supply chain issues was “too little, too late” for the festive season.