Tory mayoral hopeful Shaun Bailey has said High Speed Two (HS2) should be “paused” and investment redirected to the north as the project’s future hangs in the balance.
Bailey called HS2, the £56bn railway that will connect London to the north via Birmingham, an “overpriced scheme based on outdated technology” that was “crowding out the investment we need”.
Giving a speech at the TaxPayers’ Alliance this evening, the Tory pick for mayor said: “As it stands, the government has earmarked £56bn to just one project: HS2.
“And whistleblowers estimate the true cost to be more – much more – than that. All to give us 1990s rail technology by 2040.
“It’s not clear to me that better connecting London to the North – and vice versa, is what we need in Britain at this point in our history.”
He continued: “The HS2 commitment is crowding out the investment we need to make our regions ready for their global opportunities. That’s why government should pause HS2.
“It’s an overpriced scheme based on outdated technology. Out of date from its opening date.
“Instead of continuing with HS2 as it stands, the government should send the funds to the regions to improve their regional infrastructure.”
The future of HS2 hangs in the balance while Britain awaits its next Prime Minister. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he would press ahead with the project if he replaces Theresa May in Downing Street but Boris Johnson, the frontrunner, has said he will launch a review into the project if he becomes PM.
An HS2 spokesperson said: “HS2 will become the first new railway built north of London since the Victorian era. It has the potential to be a catalyst for 500,000 jobs and 100,000 new homes, boosting towns and cities across the Midlands and the north. It will play a crucial role in rebalancing Britain’s economy and maximise the benefits of both the Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub.
“Work is progressing across our first phase, with over 250 work locations between London and the West Midlands supporting 9,000 jobs and opportunities for 2,000 businesses. HS2 will transform rail travel in the UK, give passengers thousands of extra seats every day and take freight off our roads.”