Tory MPs may revolt if HS2 gets the go-ahead

A worker walks past a sign outside a construction site for a section of Britain's HS2 high-speed railway project. Photo: Getty
A worker walks past a sign outside a construction site for a section of Britain's HS2 high-speed railway project. Photo: Getty
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Boris Johnson may face a revolt from HS2-sceptic MPs who helped him clutch victory in December’s General Election as signs point towards the multi-billion pound rail scheme getting the go-ahead next week.

Newly-elected Tory MPs could rally against their leader in a show of defiance against the scheme, which many feel is contrary to the interests of their constituents.

Alexander Stafford, who won Rother Valley last month, has been vocally opposed to the scheme, which estimates say could now cost up to £106bn.

And while he said he wanted to wait to find out the details, he did not rule out voting against his party just weeks into his tenure.

He said: “The mood music has changed, which is disappointing. But I’d have to have a look at what they are saying, I’ve heard a lot of rumours.

“Ultimately I will do what I believe is best for Rother Valley.”

Mr Stafford was due - along with other anti-HS2 MPs - to meet Boris Johnson on Wednesday to put forward their case for scrapping the scheme.

But in another sign that the Government is gearing up to go ahead with the plans, that meeting was cancelled.

Mr Stafford said he would now be looking at how he could lobby for more holistic improvements, such as to local routes and bus services. He said: “If [HS2] goes ahead as is, that’s something we will be fighting hard for, and also to try and fight to get a station on the way so people in Rother Valley can use it.”

Greg Smith, Tory MP for Buckingham, also warned he would vote against HS2 in Parliament.

He said: "I was very clear in the general election campaign that I am opposed to HS2. It is absolutely wrong for my constituency and I believe it to be wrong for the country as well.

"I made very clear commitments in the general election that, come what may, I will oppose HS2."

Mr Smith said his view was shared by many other MPs.

"We are not against infrastructure. We are just saying that HS2 is the wrong project, it goes along the wrong route at a cost that, frankly, the nation can't afford," he said.

"What the HS2 review group - which has many new northern Conservative MPs on it - is saying is that, instead of HS2, we can do great things that will really improve people's lives - local commuter routes in our Midlands and northern towns and cities - big improvements to those."

It comes after Chancellor Sajid Javid was set to throw his weight behind the project at a meeting with Mr Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday.

The Yorkshire Post understands that having reviewed costs and alternatives the Chancellor will "broadly back" the high-speed line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

There is support for the scheme in Yorkshire’s new cohort, as Jason McCartney, new Tory MP for Colne Valley, made the case for HS2 in the Commons yesterday and said the point needed to be made that it was about capacity as well as speed.

He said it also needed to be stressed that “it's not either-or”.

He said: “As well as HS2 we need the TransPennine upgrade, we need Northern Powerhouse Rail, we need a direct Huddersfield to London service, and we also need to upgrade the Huddersfield, Penistone, Sheffield line.

“This would show this Government's real true commitment to levelling up our country and our economy.”

However long-term critic of the project, Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies, told the Government to scrap the "catastrophic" HS2 scheme.

He said: "If the Government were to scrap HS2, which everybody knows is a catastrophic waste of money, we would have a huge amount available for more rail infrastructure in West Yorkshire and across the North."

He added: "Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS3 is much more important to us than HS2, so what is the Government's intended timetable for completing Northern Powerhouse Rail?"

Responding for the Government, Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: "HS2 and these various other bits of infrastructure, they're not an either-or, these are additional investments we're making in our infrastructure."