Shropshire Star

'Costs are ballooning. Value for money is deflating': Calls for Lib Dems to abandon support for HS2

The Liberal Democrat party must abandon their support for HS2 for the sake of the economy and the environment, a Shropshire councillor has said.

An artist's impression of an HS2 train

Questions have been raised about the rail project after it was revealed costs will exceed £100 billion – and that the section of line between Birmingham and the north could be halted or downgraded using existing tracks.

The National Audit Office said Government ministers had underestimated the complexity and scale of the project.

Lib Dem Councillor Andy Boddington is calling for his party to drop their support moving forward.

"Last week’s report from the National Audit Office contained no surprises," he said.

"But it was still devastating for High Speed 2. The complexity of the project was underestimated. Costs are ballooning. Value for money is deflating. The political uncertainty surrounding the project, especially the northern sections, will load more costs."

But the rising costs are not the most troubling issue, Councillor Boddington said.

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He added: "The drain on public finances is not the main problem. HS2 is environmentally destructive. Far from being green, it will destroy centuries old biodiverse landscapes. It will take a century for the scheme to pay back the carbon and environmental costs of construction.

"HS2 is a London-centric vanity project. The Lib Dem leadership should withdraw support for HS2 and declare it dead in a ditch."

Councillor Boddington said HS2 bosses have quietly dropped the pledge to protect water resources, as well as the commitment to seek environmental enhancements.

The Woodland Trust said HS2 will destroy or irreparably damage five internationally protected wildlife sites, 693 local wildlife sites, 108 ancient woodlands and 33 sites of special scientific interest.

"All that HS2 can offer in compensation is tens of thousands of saplings that won’t be capable of supporting a biodiverse environment for decades," he added.

"It even lets those trees die because it is cheaper to replace them than nurture nature. The environmental case HS2 doesn’t stack up. The economic case doesn’t stack up either.

"The Lib Dems have rightly ruled out at third runway at Heathrow. But our support for HS2 remains a London-centric policy. It conflicts with our values on a fairer Britain and protecting the environment."

Last week Conservative MP Owen Paterson, a one-time supporter of HS2, said it is time to cut the Government's losses and instead plough the money into other infrastructure.

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