THE BLOG

Government's Stitch-Up Makes a Mockery of the Entire HS2 Project

22/10/2014 17:05 BST | Updated 22/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Imagine for a moment that you have been given responsibility for one of the country's biggest infrastructure projects in recent times.

You have inherited a project with spiralling costs which has been poorly managed up this point. Plans have been drawn up for this project but you have the scope to change them, and you have been presented with an alternative which would make the project cheaper, allow it to be started faster, and make its benefits felt by a great many more people.

No-brainer, right?

Well it would seem that Sir David Higgins doesn't feel the same way. The man put in charge of the High Speed Two project looks set to reject proposals put forward by Stoke-on-Trent for a station in the city in favour of the original plans that would see a stop in Crewe. That's Crewe with a population a third the size of Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe which would need nearly two miles worth of tunnels, a long cutting and a number of viaducts, and Crewe which would still need a brand new station, negating any benefit of its nineteenth century railway links.

You might expect a Stoke-on-Trent MP to be banging the drum for the Stoke-on-Trent bid, and put this down to a degree of parochialism. In that case I would suggest reading about the Stoke-on-Trent bid and coming to your own conclusions - I dare say you'll end up feeling the same way I do.

Higgins' blinkered approach to this project does him no credit and belies the reputation he has built up through his good work on the London 2012 Olympics and as boss of Network Rail. It leads me to believe that the government, who have a party political plan for this line, have told Higgins the answer and simply hired him to justify it.

I can't help but feel that the 'consultation' process was a sham, and that the government are actually delighted that Stoke-on-Trent made a bid, as it allows them to give the impression that other options have been considered. Remember of course that Crewe made no bid at all during the open period of the consultation and all the work on its feasibility has been done by the government with the funds of course coming from us, the taxpayer.

If the consultation was indeed only for show, not only does the city of Stoke-on-Trent deserve financial compensation from the government for the resources that have been poured into the bid, but the hundreds of thousands of people in the area who would have benefited from the line deserve an apology and an explanation as to why the Government want to negatively impact them for the benefit of their Tory friends in Cheshire.

Because make no mistake, for all of the government's warm words about how Stoke-on-Trent won't be negatively impacted, once the High Speed Two line is open services on the West Coast Mainline will decrease, investment will be diverted to Crewe, and a City that already took a kicking under the Thatcher and Major governments will be left reeling from another hammering from David Cameron.

If we are going to go ahead with spending tens of billions on High Speed Two then at the very least we need to be sure that we are getting the best value for money and ensuring that the maximum benefit is felt, both for the economy and for the people in cities such as Stoke-on-Trent. The proposals as they stand fail to meet any of these criteria and this should be to the utter shame of all those involved.