'Blank cheques' for HS2 high speed rail line - The Leamington Observer

'Blank cheques' for HS2 high speed rail line

Leamington Editorial 10th Aug, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016   0

BILLIONS of pounds more is set to be spent on high speed rail project HS2 before it gets full approval from MPs.

‘Stop HS2’ campaign manager Joe Rukin, from Kenilworth, points to a Financial Times report which states £7billion of contracts is set to go out to tender – for tunnels and viaducts along phase 1 of the proposed route between London and Birmingham.

It will rip through Coventry and Warwickshire countryside towards a new interchange station near the NEC.

Mr Rukin said the contractual arrangements by arms-length company HS2 Ltd come despite the fact the bill for the first phase of HS2 is not now expected to have Parliamentary approval until 2017.

He said it amounted to ‘blank cheques’ for companies as HS2 Ltd presses full steam ahead with the highly controversial project.

The line will see bullet trains at speeds of up to 225mph ripping through land between Coventry and Kenilworth near Crackley Woods, at Burton Green, Berkswell, Balsall Common, Stoneleigh and Cubbington.

Mr Joe Rukin said: “We’ve always said that HS2 Ltd would blow as much cash as possible to try and make the project impossible to cancel.

“They’ve spent the best part of a billion, there’s over a billion out for tender, and now we learn they will start bids on contracts worth another seven billion next month, all before the HS2 plans get passed by Parliament.

“None of this needs Parliamentary approval, because MPs and Lords signed a blank cheque for HS2 two years ago.

“HS2 Ltd have said they need to tender this early to make sure ‘the project remains on time and on budget’, which is spin of the first order because it was meant to have been passed by now, and it’s already a mile off budget, but nothing like as high as the cost will end up.”

“What is happening here is clear. It doesn’t matter how bad the case for HS2 is, how terribly the project is being managed, or where the real cost now is.

“This government wants HS2, and as such they will blow as much money as possible to make it seem like a waste not to go ahead. This is typical of dogmatic politicians.”

Mr Rukin said the problems stemmed from Parliament’s 2013 approval of the ‘High Speed Rail Preparation Act’, which means MPs’ approval is not needed for ‘pre-construction activity’ contracts.

Professor Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, told the FT: “Once the digging starts, it makes it even harder to stop.

“The more big contracts are let and the more people they bring in from other organisations, the harder it is to back out.

“It would be financially expensive and hugely politically embarrassing to row back from that.”

Phase two of HS2 would extend the line from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

HS2 Ltd insists it will stick to its £50billion budget.


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