Brexit: Iain Dale clashes with ‘delusional’ caller over HS2
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Supporters of HS2 say it will boost the economy, create jobs and improve transport. But constituents in South Northamptonshire have consistently raised their concerns to their MP Andrea Leadson, who was axed as Business Secretary by Boris Johnson in Thursday’s Cabinet reshuffe.
In July, before Mrs Leadsom became Business Secretary, she held a Parliamentary debate calling on the Government to commit to a full review of the business case for HS2.
This was granted and led to a full independent review of HS2, undertaken by Doug Oakervee, supported by Lord Berkeley.
The divisive issue had faced the axe but was given the green signal in Parliament by the Prime Minister on Tuesday after the review was published.
Mr Oakervee recommended the project go ahead but with some caveats.
HS2 anger: How Andrea Leadsom claims HS2 railway line will 'disappoint' her constituents (Image: Getty)
Speaking to the Northampton Chronicle and Echo in the wake of Tuesday's announcements, Mrs Leadsom said: "I know this will disappoint many of my constituents.
"But I can assure them that the Prime Minister has taken into account my concerns for constituents."
She added: "A minister will be appointed to oversee the project who will report to Parliament twice every year to hold HS2 properly to account.
"My priority, as it has been for the last 10 years, will continue to be making sure that affected constituents receive fair compensation and mitigation."
HS2 anger: Andrea Leadsom called for a review of HS2 in July (Image: Getty)
HS2 anger: The HS2 route passes through South Northamptonshire, Andrea Leadsom’s constituency (Image: HS2.org.uk)
Last month, Mrs Leadsom – who set up a HS2 liaison group to raise any concerns arising from people and entities in South Northamptonshire – updated her constituents on her website.
She said: "I am still working with a number of constituents who are directly and indirectly affected by HS2, and I made clear at the meeting my frustrations with HS2 Ltd, particularly its Land & Property team, over the way they treat landowners and residents.
"There is an unacceptable disregard that runs throughout their entire approach to taking possession of people's land and homes, with compensatory payments frequently late and often substantially lower than expected.
"I continue to call for fairness and transparency from HS2 Ltd in their engagements with people in South Northants and along the line-of-route, and have raised this matter directly with the Transport Secretary, to ask what he can do to ensure HS2 Ltd treats everyone with dignity and respect."
HS2 anger: The project has faced opposition from locals in South Northamptonshire (Image: Getty)
When approving the HS2 project in Parliament on Tuesday, Boris Johnson also raised concerns about HS2 Ltd.
He said: "I cannot say that HS2 limited has distinguished itself in the handling of local communities.
"The cost forecasts have exploded, but poor management to date has not detracted from the fundamental value of the project."
Phase 1 of HS2 was given Parliamentary approval in 2017 but since then has faced delays over its spiralling costs.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Parliament in September the budget for the project had risen by £22bn from the official £55.7bn at 2015 prices, but at today's prices, HS2 is expected to cost between £81bn and £88bn; and according to a leaked review to the Financial Times, the cost has potentially risen to £106bn.
HS2 anger: Andrea Leadsom questioned the viability of HS2 (Image: Getty)
In a letter to HS2 CEO Mark Thurston, Mrs Leadsom questioned the viability of the project.
She asked Mr Thurston in November 2018: "Given that the business case for HS2 was first predicated upon speed, then on capacity, then finally on improving the connectivity to the north, can I ask how these changes – separately and cumulatively – would impact on the viability of the project?"
Another letter to Mr Thurston sent in early 2019 saw the South Northamptonshire MP say that residents there were in 'absolute dismay' at what then HS2 chairman Sir Terry Morgan had said about the project's budget and were 'incredulous' at the fact he didn't know the final cost.
Sir Terry told a Lords Economic Affairs Committee "nobody knows what the number is" when asked about the final cost of HS2.
Mrs Leadsom wrote: "You will appreciate why my constituents – who are directly affected by the construction and operation of HS2 but will see no benefit – are increasingly concerned that the business case is being undermined from all angles, and the basis for which Parliament gave its support to the project may no longer exist."
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