It’s time for Rishi to admit the HS2 fiasco has reached the end of the line, writes NADINE DORRIES
If Keir Starmer wants to swing the polls decisively to Labour’s side, then one thing would surely do it: a quick and unequivocal announcement that he would scrap HS2 the instant he became Prime Minister.
Such a move — which, I dare say, Starmer lacks the courage to make — would be devastating for the Tories. I doubt anything Rishi Sunak could say or do could reverse its impact.
The planned high-speed rail link cuts straight through several constituencies in the Conservative heartlands. Voters hate the disruption it’s causing and see no corresponding benefit to their local areas.
HS2’s toxic impact on Tory fortunes was made clear at the 2021 by-election in the previously safe seat of Chesham and Amersham. This had been vacated because of the untimely death of Cheryl Gillan MP, a brave soul who had campaigned relentlessly against the project. The constituency swung, in a shock result, to the Lib Dems.
NADINE DORRIES: The fact is that the case for HS2 was always weak — and is getting weaker by the day
Sunak can expect more of the same at the General Election next year. The fact is that the case for HS2 was always weak — and is getting weaker by the day. As the Mail reported yesterday, the Government’s own watchdog, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, has just branded the link ‘unachievable’ — and rightly so.
I’m reminded of the last physical meeting I held as a Health Minister, just before Covid hit. The person I was meeting had left his Manchester home early that morning. It took him half a day to get to me, using a mainline train and then a taxi. We met for 45 minutes, and then he repeated the same journey in reverse.
Would he benefit from HS2 in future? No: since the pandemic, both of us would know that a call on Microsoft Teams or Zoom would be cheaper and more efficient. The face-to-face meeting simply wouldn’t happen.
The bill for HS2 has soared from a predicted £33 billion to almost £100 billion, while the first leg — from London to Crewe — was meant to open in 2026 but is now expected to be as late as 2033. We were sold a vision of trains travelling at up to 248mph — but the average speed on HS2 is now predicted to be just 205mph, only 80mph faster than a typical mainline train, and at a cost of untold billions.
Gone, too, is all talk of linking HS2 to the Continent or the Eurostar network, let alone Heathrow. The trains will instead stop at Old Oak Common, out in the sticks of North-West London. They won’t reach the main Euston terminus until 2041, if at all.
NADINE DORRIES: HS2 has reached the end of the line. Sunak needs to admit this — or he will face the same fate
To put it simply, the world has moved on since HS2 was first mooted. It would be a far better use of public money to invest in a proper east-west rail link than simply to shave a few minutes off a London-to-Birmingham train journey — a time-saving immediately cancelled by having to travel across London.
Frankly, I have my doubts this project will ever be finished. But if it is, it will have bled the taxpayer dry, destroyed countless livelihoods and ripped the country in half for almost no discernible benefit.
In 2012, I raised my objections to HS2 with George Osborne in the House of Commons, urging greater investment in regional transport networks instead of this costly white elephant.
NADINE DORRIES: Boris Johnson and I saw eye to eye on many things — but not on HS2
The following year, I warned again in Parliament about the rising costs. I take no pleasure in saying now: I was right both times. Many of my fellow MPs remain baffled why the Government is still throwing so much good taxpayers’ money after bad.
Boris Johnson and I saw eye to eye on many things — but not on HS2. I share the former PM’s fondness for big infrastructure projects, but I think the case for this railway link has always been grossly overstated, and is now unjustifiable.
The only beneficiaries, of course, have been the armies of highly paid executives.
A few weeks ago, Mark Thurston announced that he plans to stand down as CEO of HS2, having spent over six years in a role he unsurprisingly described as ‘the highlight of my career’. Thurston presided over soaring costs and endless delays, for which he was paid a ludicrous taxpayer-funded package of more than £620,000 last year — about four times as much as the Prime Minister himself.
Investment in infrastructure is essential, but it has to be on the right projects and for the right reasons. HS2 has reached the end of the line. Sunak needs to admit this — or he will face the same fate.
You can’t have an S Club party without Hannah…
I have such happy memories of taking my daughters to their first concerts: S Club 7 and Boyzone’s Ronan Keating, then Green Day and Florence + The Machine when they were a bit older.
Hannah Spearritt is an ‘SC7’ favourite — but has sensationally claimed that she has been cut out of the band’s reunion tour by management, which is already reeling from the sudden death of member Paul Cattermole in April.
Come on, guys: the fans want to see the band back together. Get it sorted because, as my daughters could tell you, Hannah is loved every bit as much as the rest of them.
Hannah Spearritt is an ‘SC7’ favourite — but has sensationally claimed that she has been cut out of the band’s reunion tour by management
Fitting tribute to the Queen and her corgis
Dog lovers everywhere will be delighted to learn that one of the Queen’s beloved corgis is to be immortalised in the first official memorial statue of our late monarch.
The 7ft effigy by Hywel Bran Pratley, to be unveiled in Rutland, depicts a young queen in her state robes, the faithful friend at her feet.
As someone who is owned by two West Highland White Terriers, I can see what a brilliant effect the little dog has on the statue. It helps us to look beyond that dazzling regalia — and see the warmth and compassion of this much-missed, miraculous woman.
Dog lovers everywhere will be delighted to learn that one of the Queen’s beloved corgis is to be immortalised in the first official memorial statue of our late monarch
Simon Cowell is leaving our screens on Saturday nights as he shuns celebrity to spend more time with his family. I for one will miss him. Yes, he’s famous for making many people’s dreams come true — but he will be remembered just as much for his high-waisted trousers, pointy shoes and plunging V-neck T-shirts.
Parking greed gets my goat!
The Government is conducting a review into the practices of private parking companies — and not before time. My plea is that they look at why these firms insist on us giving them our car registration numbers when we pay for parking on our phones.
I don’t care who knows it: I always give my pay-and-display ticket, when it’s got a bit of time left, to another driver about to park.
It’s a small act of generosity in our increasingly selfish society. Sharing is caring — but these greedy parking companies don’t like it one bit.
The number of junior doctors on strike has fallen by a quarter since the Government announced it would accept the recommendations made by the pay-review body, meaning doctors’ salaries will rise by up to 10.3 per cent this year. Excuse me: only a quarter? Shouldn’t they all be back at work by now?
Junior doctors hold placards during a strike in April, amid a dispute with the government over pay (file photo)
Sick folk don’t need life coach
Doctors are to prescribe ‘life coaches’ instead of offering sick notes. I’m writing this while on hold for a GP appointment myself — and it’s been over an hour.
I need a life coach to sort out my wardrobe, pick up the dry cleaning, do my shopping, help me pay my bills, walk the dogs and go to the gym for me. Fantastic idea — but somehow I can’t see it working on the NHS.
Today’s literary gem
Thomas Pynchon, American novelist
‘If you see a train this evening, Far away, against the sky, Lie down in your woollen blanket, Sleep and let the train go by.’
- Twitter: @NadineDorries
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