Tory MP tells party HS2 is a losing proposition in 2015

Backbench Tory MP Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) has warned Conservatives that pursuing HS2 may lose them the election in 2015.

Whilst Labour officially supports the proposed rail line, the London Evening Standard reports that Ed Balls hinted at the recent Labour Party conference that they might drop the project altogether if elected in 2015.

The paper reports that Bridgen has sent a letter to 130 Conservative MPs in which he

describes the £42.6 billion high-speed rail network as an “expensive white elephant”.

Bridgen also wrote

if Labour pledges to scrap HS2, it will free up billions of pounds, allowing the party to win voters with expensive promises.

He told the Standard:

“It’s better to drop HS2 now rather than see Labour drop it and use the £50 billion to buy votes in marginal seats.

“It would become very difficult for the Tories to argue that money is not available for spending.”

The coverage of the Conservative Party conference on the BBC showed many members firmly in favour of HS2 for reasons of ‘progress’.

Whilst that is true, the project will also run through some of the most beautiful English countryside, threatening the survival and stability of farms, villages and ancient buildings. It’s a vote-earner for Labour if they wish to exploit the historical and environmental angle, particularly as some of the route is in Tory heartlands in the Home Counties. People living in these areas are undecided about the merits of — if not actively opposed to — HS2.

However, Bridgen makes the principal argument, that of money, which Labour would use for ‘the people’. The choice between people and a rail line is obvious.

But what would a Tory backtrack on HS2 look like to voters? Will it matter or will it look as if the party had made a major blunder which they tried to correct in time for 2015?

Do we really need HS2 or is it just a way for the Conservatives to leave a tangible post-Thatcher legacy?

15 comments for “Tory MP tells party HS2 is a losing proposition in 2015

  1. john in cheshire
    October 17, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    CM, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t HS2 something that is being imposed by the EU TFEU-Transport, since transport is an EU competence. If I’m correct, then it matters not a jot what any domestic politician might say or promise to do. If the EU has decided it will be done, then while we are a member of this evil empire, it will be done. And, of course, we the normal inhabitants of our country will pay for it.

  2. Mark
    October 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    HS2 is unnecessary. As a traveling businessman I can work on a train and I simply programme the journey time into my working day. A few tens of minutes here or there mean nothing.

    On the other hand, the ability to catch the train after a short car journey is very important. The money would be better spent on decent parking at Watford, and a station with parking near to where the M25 and Leeds line cross.

  3. Errol
    October 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    HS2 is an EU mandated project that extends TENs, or TEN-T. Dave will make sure it is built regardless of need, worth or merit simply because he’s ‘just following orders’.

  4. Ed P
    October 17, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    So if Labour decide against HS2, from the above comments it must follow that they must be in favour of escaping the morbid destructive grip of the EU. I’d actually consider voting for them if those two items were in their manifesto!

  5. ivan
    October 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    If there has to be an HS2 rail line, as some are saying, why not make it a real high speed line using an elevated maglev track or is the construction methods also dictated by the EU?

    • john in cheshire
      October 17, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      Ivan, forgive me I’m not trying to be rude, but I don’t think you quite understand the nuances. We have had absolutely no say in this project. There was a sham of a consultation period where just about all comments were ignored; as I recall, the majority giving credible arguments against this horrendous expenditure. Therefore, if you accept that we can’t alter the EU position, then one must accept that they are also immune to changes to the scope. It is as it has been decreed. The only way to stop these abuses of our money is to campaign for and plan for our withdrawal from the EU. I would suggest that you also check out Richard North’s blog, EUReferendum, which has some remarkable information about the EU and how we could emerge from its grasp with a minimum of pain.

    • October 18, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      A few years ago a guy called Stuart Bower took the Labour Party (Gordon Brown) to court over their refusal to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, he lost as the court stated that “Manifesto promises are not subject to legitimate expectation”

      Essentially the court was telling us that political parties can put what the hell they like in a manifesto and then ignore it once voted into power…

      Sorry, this comment should be in reply to Ed P.

  6. Mudplugger
    October 17, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    The business case for HS2 will never stack up, it’s 19th century technology trying to live in the 21st century world, an utter commercial irrelevance. It’s just a Big Train Set, like Heathrow’s just a ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ airport – wholly wrong-headed and inappropriate.

    But that won’t stop the EU spending more of our future debt on it, via its on-site sleeper agent, Cast-Iron-Horse Dave.

  7. October 17, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Hello, everyone —

    Thank you for your comments thus far — please feel free to continue.

    As to whether this is really an EU-mandated project, it seems somewhat doubtful, although Tories might be using Jacques Delors’s 1993 trans-European plan as an excuse (emphases mine below):

    1/ Christopher Booker (Telegraph, 2012:

    The hidden story behind this project goes back to 1993, when Jacques Delors was busy with two gargantuan schemes for the integration of Europe. One was to give it a single currency. The other, just as ambitious, was his plan for Trans-European Networks (TENs), designed to integrate all Europe’s transport and communications systems. These would not be funded directly by the EU; instead, the member states would construct their own bits according to an overall plan

    The first British section to be subsumed into a TEN was the already planned link between London and Paris, which was why its name was changed from the Channel Tunnel Link to “HS1”. But once the idea of a high-speed train network had lodged in the corporate mind of our departmental officials, like their continental counterparts they began planning extensions to the grand design, to connect the North of England and Scotland directly with the European network … ‘

    On that basis, it seems as if the UK has already done its fair share with HS1 (the Channel Tunnel link). Anything more might appear to be self-aggrandising and, quite possibly, optional. Comments and further information are welcome.

    2/ Fraser Nelson (The Spectator, July 2013):

    The business case for HS2 is falling apart, and with it the political consensus. Vince Cable has today become the latest one to say that the case is not made.

    ‘Labour had been supportive (thanks to the continuing evangelism of Andrew Adonis) but today’s FT has Ed Balls saying there will be “no blank cheque” for HS2. He senses a U-Turn is inevitable and wants to call for one now. Mandelson says HS2 could prove an “expensive mistake” and Alistair Darling is against it …

    ‘The Department of Transport has admitted that its original HS2 business case was nothing more than a “high-level desk-based exercise”. As the FT put it, this is civil-service speak for “a wild guess”. In other words, HS2 is a project that should never have got off the drawing board…

    A Department of Business official kindly gets in touch to say that Cable is “in favour” of HS2 and was referring to the business case. But when I asked if Cable therefore thinks the case has in fact been made, the spokesman declined to comment.

    It appears as if HS2 is not part of an EU mandate, but, again, please share any further information you have.

    When I watched the Conservative Party conference coverage, no one interviewed said it was an EU mandate but rather a project the Conservatives could give to the nation. And how.

  8. johnnyrvf
    October 17, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    19th century technology. Well perhaps but I have yet to see 20th or 21st century technology produce a vehicle that can travel at 300 kph (186 mph) with a capacity of carrying 1000 people and luggage in comfort and safety. In France, Germany and Spain the TGV networks are well established and if booked a few weeks in advance very competitively priced. Bordeaux to Tours 21 Euros anybody? What is disgraceful about the U.K. is 70 years of under investment and political meddling which makes the rail network a sad example of a once, in the 19th century, world class system.

    • Dave_G
      October 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      As I recall there are more than a few modern aircraft that can travel at DOUBLE (and more) the speed of TGV-type trains with, admittedly, half the passengers but, then again, you can land/take-off planes at sub 1 minute intervals. Planes are also safer! Let’s see trains travelling at sub 1 minute intervals…….
      The only ‘problem’ with aircraft is the ridiculous check-in/security arrangements, deliberately over-emphasised to re-enforce the terrorist meme. Even a convoy of coaches could do better – and cheaper.

  9. graham wood
    October 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

    J in C I fully share your view about HS2 being EU driven. I have no data for that but as we know that it is behind almost every major policy of the British government – although well hidden from the electorate of course!

    As for: “We have had absolutely no say in this project. There was a sham of a consultation period where just about all comments were ignored”

    Indeed! Does this not exactly replicate the Same sex marriage so called consultation which was distorted and corrupted at every stage, with no electoral mandate, and which Cameron openly lied about on TV a few days before the 2010 election.

  10. October 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    on the subject of the Trans-European Network (Transport) (TEN-T).

    The European Union has published new maps showing the nine major corridors which will act as a backbone for transportation in Europe’s single market. Readers will note that the high-speed link between London and the Continent is clearly marked as progressing north through Birmingham to Manchester and beyond. As has been noted on this blog we are being ‘sold’ HS2 as a national project to negate the North/South divide – when one look at the map (linked) should dispel any doubt as to the real reason.

    Original Article at Witterings from Witney

  11. Mona
    October 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Stop worrying, the Chinese will build it and own it just for the fun of it.

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