Boris Johnson appeared to raise a red flag over major infrastructure projects including the expansion of Heathrow and HS2.
The Prime Minister, who broke off from campaigning in the north of England to speak to LBC radio, said that while he wasn’t “temperamentally hostile” to big infrastructure projects, he had concerns about both of them.
Johnson, who famously said he would lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent a third runway being built at Heathrow, told Nick Ferrari he “would have to find some way of honouring that promise”.
“It might be technically difficult to do,” he added.
Johnson was foreign secretary at the time an independent review backed Heathrow over Gatwick or other alternatives and failed to resign, although he was conspicuously absent from a Commons vote on the matter.
This morning he said there was still “some substantial doubt as to how promoters would honour pledges on air quality and noise pollution”.
Asked about HS2, Johnson also appeared to signal reluctance to press ahead with the high speed rail link between London and Birmingham.
He put the budget for the project at £100bn – far above current estimates.
Challenged on this disparity, Johnson said: “I think it will probably come in somewhat north of £100bn. You’re right it’s currently budgeted at £88bn – that is an awful lot of money.”
As a result it was “sensible” to ask how the money was being spent, he added.
“We’ve got a review going on to look at whether the money could be better spent.
“That’s not to say I am temperamentally hostile to big infrastructure projects. But the issue is we’re a new administration. If you come in and there’s a project of north of £100bn probably, you have to ask yourself, it’s only responsible to the taxpayer to ask whether it’s being sensibly spent and that funding is being prioritised right.”
Both projects have been controversial, particularly for local residents. Chelsea & Fulham MP Greg Hands resigned his ministerial role in order to vote against the government in 2018, while Richmond Park’s Zac Goldsmith resigned as a Conservative to run as an independent MP over the matter.
Now environment minister, Goldsmith is widely expected to lose this week to Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “A vast majority of MPs, unions and business support Heathrow expansion as it will provide an economic boost up and down the country, with strict and legally binding environmental targets attached – including on noise, air quality and carbon emissions.
“We remain focused on delivering this major piece of privately-funded infrastructure responsibly and sustainably to keep the UK and London competitive on the global stage”
British Chambers of Commerce director of policy Mike Spicer added: “Transforming the UK’s transport infrastructure would be a major investment in the future success of our economy. The next government must progress these crucial projects as early as possible in the next parliament. ”
A CBI spokesperson said: “Unlocking UK competitiveness is essential no matter who forms the next government, starting by addressing day-to-day concerns including unreformed business rates, fixing the broken apprenticeship levy and completing vital infrastructure projects including HS2 and Heathrow.”
Main image: Getty