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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Transport minister denies putting off HS2 decision for political reasons during Notts visit

PUBLISHED:

The Conservative transport minister has today denied the delayed decision on the future of the High Speed 2 train line was for political reasons.

He was speaking on a visit to the marginal constituency of Broxtowe.

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In June a report into HS2 was ordered, but its publication has now been delayed until after the election.

However parts of it were leaked to the Times, showing not only would the cost likely rise again from £88billion but that the economic benefit that the line is expected to generate is £1.30 to £1.50 for every £1 spent, compared with previous claims of £2.30.

Since its inception, the line has been controversial. Critics argue it is massively overpriced and that it would cause irreversible destruction to communities for several years during construction.

However, supporters, including most political and business leaders in the East Midlands, argue it is vital for rebalancing the national economy and would create thousands of jobs.

The issue is particularly important on doorsteps in Broxtowe because the current plan is for the line to stop at a proposed station in Toton, before heading further north.

Mr Shapps says he has still not seen the report but denied the delay to its publication had been made for political convenience.

Asked what the Conservative policy was on HS2, he said: “One of the things I did was to launch a review, and I keep reading about bits and pieces in the newspaper, but the truth is I haven’t seen the review.

“I’ve seen the newspapers, but actually it’s not even a draft report yet presented to the department.

“So I think what we’re seeing here is a few internal bits and pieces put out to the newspapers and I’m not sure that it’s the full story.

“I’ve been really clear on HS2 in that we have to know if this thing stacks up.

“Does it actually provide returns, how much is it actually going to cost, and until we get a comprehensive, properly robust report I’m not going to go into some of the leaks I’ve seen.”

The Prime Minister has said previously the report would be published on November 6.

Asked whether the election was a convenient excuse not to publish it, he said: “I think an election is more than a convenient excuse.

“We had simply no choice about it, there was no other way we could do it.”

Mr Shapps was joined on the visit by the Conservative candidate for Broxtowe, Darren Henry.

He said there were pros and cons to HS2 but despite being asked five separate times, he refused to say whether he supported the scheme.

He said: “Regardless of the leaked document which I understand has gone out, nothing formal has come out about a decision on HS2.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ll work with whatever the outcome is.

“If we’re getting HS2 or not getting HS2 we need to work with whatever that outcome is.”

Asked whether not getting HS2 would be a blow for Broxtowe, he said: “If we don’t get it, there are huge opportunities there for investing in electric trains for example and green spaces that we’ll have and we’ll have that to complement the Neighbourhood Plans that we’ve got.”

“It doesn’t matter if we get HS2 or if we don’t, we’re going to work with whatever the result is.”

Candidates have until Thursday, November 14 to confirm whether they are standing.

The candidates currently confirmed in Broxtowe are:

Kat Boettge, Green Party

Darren Henry, Conservative

Greg Marshall, Labour

Anna Soubry, the Independent Group for Change

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