A group of MPs has told the Prime Minister it “is not too late for the Government to change course” over HS2 as they wrote an open letter to Boris Johnson urging him to rethink the project.
Two Yorkshire Tory MPs - Alexander Stafford for Rother Valley and Philip Davies for Shipley - signed the letter, alongside other members of the newly re-formed HS2 Review Group, sent to the PM on Friday.
The letter said the new Government had a duty to “ensure our new northern constituencies benefit from infrastructure investment to secure the trust they have placed in us” but that they felt it was “especially important that we do look at alternatives” to the high-speed rail link which is planned.
They added: “As One Nation Conservatives, we need to restore public trust in the process of government and the way we spend taxpayers’ money. HS2 is widely seen as a project that is beset by problems, consistently running over time and budget.”
Mr Stafford, who was elected as MP for Rother Valley last week, joined the group and said: “The current route for HS2 will wreak havoc across Rother Valley, destroy hundreds of home, break up our communities and would be an environmental disaster.
“We urgently need HS2 to be properly reviewed and stop this huge waste of money.
“Every pound spent on HS2 is a pound that is not being spent on proper connectivity or the upgrading of our northern infrastructure.”
The total cost for HS2 is now set at £88bn, up from an original £34bn when first announced.
And the Oakervee Review, which will recommend what the Government should do next with the project, is due to report back soon. It was expected before the election but was delayed by the poll.
However the HS2 Review Group said: “The Chair is perceived to be in favour of the project because of his previous role at HS2, Indeed, we understand his remit prevented sufficient consideration of alternatives and the panel was not given enough time to do the comprehensive review that this project demands.”
Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said it was “unsurprising that a number of Conservative backbenchers who have always opposed HS2, mostly in the South, will be making representations on the project”.
But he said their criticism of the Oakervee Review “shows their fear of evidence-based analysis proving them soon to be on the wrong side of the argument”.
He added: “Their case includes the significant misunderstanding that they will somehow only be able to pay back northern voters with infrastructure if they scrap the project, when the opposite is in fact the case.”
However the HS2 Review Group added: “It is not too late for the Government to change course. We have many new colleagues who have campaigned against or are seriously concerned about the future of this project.
“Our fear is that if this project goes ahead as planned, costs will continue to spiral, and the business case will further collapse.
“We are concerned that not only money but also energy and expertise will be consumed by this project affecting our ability to deliver on other national projects.”
The group has asked to meet with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps when Parliament returns on January 7, and also the Prime Minister, to discuss the issue.
A government spokesperson said: “The Transport Secretary established an independent review into HS2 which will provide Government with clear advice on whether and how the project should proceed. We will consider the findings of the independent review before making a decision on the next steps.”