Grant Shapps has emphasized the need for a comprehensive re evaluation of the viability of the entire HS2 rail project, characterizing it as “imprudent” not to do so. This statement comes amidst increasing indications that the government may consider scrapping the northern section of the project, specifically the Birmingham to Manchester route.
In the wake of nearly a week of reports suggesting that government ministers are contemplating abandoning the Birmingham to Manchester leg, Grant Shapps, who served as the transport secretary until the previous month, refrained from ruling out such a course of action. Instead, he pointed to a trio of significant factors—namely, the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, and rising inflation—as substantial disruptors to public finances. In light of these circumstances, Shapps articulated that it would be unwise to simply proceed with the project as originally planned without acknowledging the shift in the fiscal landscape.
Shapps underscored the responsibility of a government to scrutinize the project’s ongoing feasibility with the following query: “Does this still align with the nation’s needs, in terms of allocating its resources and the appropriate timing for doing so?” This question, according to him, is essential for ensuring that the project continues to serve the country effectively.
Within the Conservative Party, there has been debate regarding HS2, primarily fueled by concerns over its escalating costs. Initially estimated at £33 billion in 2010, the projected cost has since surged to £71 billion and is now apprehensively estimated to approach £100 billion. Some within the party have advocated for cost-cutting measures or a reconsideration of the project’s delivery timeline.
In sum, the fate of the HS2 rail project is subject to renewed scrutiny and deliberation in light of shifting economic and geopolitical circumstances, as well as mounting concerns over its financial sustainability. Grant Shapps’ comments underscore the necessity of a thorough reevaluation to ensure that the project aligns with the evolving needs and fiscal reality of the nation.