HS2 decision once ‘all the information’ is in, says cabinet minister

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he "would wait for the facts" of the Oakervee Review after Lor

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he "would wait for the facts" of the Oakervee Review after Lord Berkeley's critical comments on HS2. Picture: Go Ultra Low - Credit: Archant

A decision on HS2 will be made once all the facts are in, the transport secretary said on Tuesday (January 7).

Grant Shapps was speaking following the publication of a report by Lord Berkeley, in which the Labour peer said costs are out of control and that MPs have been misled.

In August Mr Shapps ordered a review into the major rail project connecting London and the north of England.

Lord Berkeley was the deputy chair of the Oakervee Review panel but he has broken away, criticising the way the report has been produced and arguing that the money spent on HS2 would be better used improving infrastructure in the north.

Speaking at an event in Highgate promoting electric vehicles, Mr Shapps told the Ham&High he had seen Lord Berkeley's comments.

"It should be noted there are ten panel members and only one has issued a minority report," he said. "The other nine stand behind the Oakervee Report and once we've got all the information we'll come to a decision.

"My job is to get the facts. Well, my job is to ask for the facts and be able to make a decision, and once we've got those all collected, once the Oakervee report is officially presented and any questions have been answered, then the Prime Minister and I will make the decision."

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The rail project, which would start at Euston Station and initially run to Birmingham, has already brought changes to Camden with works under way.

Residents across Primrose Hill, Belsize and Regent's Park have campaigned against the line due to concerns about pollution and congestion.

Lord Berkeley's report, based on independent analysis, put the price of HS2 at a minimum of £107.92 billion, compared to a £55bn figure quoted in 2015.

Local campaigner and Camden Civic Society chair Dorothea Hackman, who lives on Mornington Terrace, near Euston, said: "I'm very pleased that now there has been proper publicity of the massive overspend.

"It is for the benefit of developers, not for the people of Camden and the nation."

In August, when the inquiry was launched, Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said: "Camden's communities have been blighted by uncertainty, upheaval and severe disruption since the very beginning of the HS2 scheme.

"Billions have already been spent but whatever happens now, the Government has a huge responsibility to Camden residents. With council homes demolished, green space taken away and a black hole forming around Euston, the Government cannot just walk away and leave us to pick up the pieces.

"If HS2 is scrapped completely, or if the line is terminated elsewhere, we would want our land back. With the land and the funding, we estimate that we could create thousands of homes and jobs in the Euston area.

"We have clear and ambitious plans for Camden's future - and we cannot allow these to be put at risk."

Camden Conservatives leader Oliver Cooper meanwwhile has called for HS2 to be scrapped saying: "We've long known how disastrous HS2 is for Camden and Lord Berkeley has laid bare how disastrous it is for the country too.

"This report shows the cost of HS2 will outweigh its benefits by tens of billions of pounds, with Boris Johnson saying that costs are running 'north of £100bn', as Michael Byng forecast three years ago. It's time to scrap the whole thing and invest the money more effectively.

"Most estimates ignore the harm to social capital and fabric done by HS2 in Camden and along the line in places like Buckinghamshire. Camden Labour dropped their calls to scrap HS2 in 2015 in exchange for assurances that some harm would be mitigated - but it's not possible to mitigate against the unprecedented scale of harm to Camden.

"Because of Euston, Regent's Park and Somers Town are changed forever by HS2, but areas further north need to be spared its effects too.

"I have serious concerns about the impact on the Chalcots and Alexandra & Ainsworth estates, while most of the borough will be inundated with construction traffic trying to get from Euston to Finchley Road."

The Oakervee Review is expected to be published in the coming months.