Britons are now wondering whether the Government should press ahead with the HS2 project, given the considerable amount of borrowing that has inflated the sovereign debt. The pressure on UK finances due to the coronavirus lockdown and the environmental cost of building high-speed rail infrastructure is now being argued as reasons to stop the costly transport endeavor. Television personality and environmental campaigner Chris Packham has recently raised an action seeking a judicial review of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to proceed with the HS2.
However, at a sitting of the High Court, a panel of judges dismissed the application.
Mr Packham sought to halt works on environmental grounds, claiming irreparable damage would be done to unique wildlife habitats.
The action was supported by witness statements from various independent conservation bodies.
But, now the massively expensive project is being challenged on financial grounds after the budgetary strains caused by coronavirus.
MP for Warley John Spellar told the Express and Star newspaper he had “considerable doubts” about HS2 now that the country is battling coronavirus.
Because of the huge pressures on Britain’s economy and likely cuts to public spending in the future, he suggested the Government could save money by cutting the infrastructure project.
Labour MP Mr Spellar, a former Transport Minister, said: “I have always had considerable doubts about HS2.
“But, now with the collapse of rail traffic and the explosion in remote working and video conferencing it would have been better to wait for a final decision until we had a clear picture after life returns to normal.
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Construction work is due to start as the Government relaxes the stringent lockdown restrictions.
HS2 Ltd was given formal approval last week to commence construction.
Ministers said the move will provide a “vote of confidence” in the construction industry.
Many pundits for the project have argued that it will come as welcome relief in a time of economic uncertainty.
But the world has changed and commuters may now wish to work remotely after successfully modeling how this can be done during the lockdown.
The HS2 business case may need to be reconsidered.
Published at Sun, 17 May 2020 10:00:00 +0000