One of the architects of high speed rail is concerned about its future.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post this week, Lord Adonis said the current scheme may well fall victim to “dither and delay”.
Britain’s rail network would eventually become so congested that even the greatest sceptics are forced to admit a new line is needed, he argued.
But it would be a disaster for the country, and particularly for Midlands and the North, if the nation waited that long.
As I’ve said before, I believe the government is unlikely to reverse course over the high speed scheme, known as HS2, which is one of its flagship policies and a symbol of its commitment to the North of England and the Midlands.
But doubts are growing. This week’s Spectator, a magazine with close links to the Conservatives, is reporting that the government is turning against HS2 (the claim was staunchly denied by a Department for Transport spokesman).
The growing popularity of UKIP is apparently worrying many Tories – and UKIP has come out against HS2, providing another excuse for disaffected Conservative voters in constituencies affected by the scheme to defect.
Even more damaging is “the lack of enthusiasm among those people it was supposed to impress: northerners, Midlanders and businesses,” according to The Spectator.
While the West Midlands has received transport investment (the rebuild of New Street station for a start), it doesn’t compare to the cash being poured into the capital. HS2 goes some way to redressing that.
The taxpayer is spending £16 billion on Crossrail and £5.5 billion on Thameslink in the south, as well as anything up to £24 billion related to the Olympics, depending on how you measure it.
Much of that is being spent on regeneration and infrastructure projects in London.
Local politicians and business groups have campaigned to ensure HS2 goes ahead in the past, but they’ve been less vocal recently.
Perhaps it’s time to join Lord Adonis in shouting out for high speed rail.