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Monday, June 4, 2012

HS2 rail 'dither and delay' criticised by Lord Adonis

High speed rail between London and Birmingham might not be achieved in the 2020s because of "endless dither and delay" by the Government, former transport secretary Lord Adonis has warned.

The Labour peer said plans to get HS2 on to the statute book by the end of this parliament could fall victim to wrangling between the coalition parties ahead of the next general election, scheduled for 2015.

The highly-controversial £33 billion network was given the go ahead in January, with a line between London and Birmingham expected to open by 2026.

Urging Prime Minister David Cameron to get a grip on the issue, Lord Adonis said: "If infrastructure projects are going to happen they need someone who is going to drive them forward, and that simply isn't present.

"We are already on the second transport secretary since the election, the Transport Department has had three permanent secretaries in the last two years. There has been endless dither and delay.

"No one is gripping this, no-one is driving this forward. There should have been a Bill for HS2 in the Queen's Speech when apparently we are instead going to be spending month after month debating House of Lords reform."

Lord Adonis, who got the HS2 project under way while in government, said he was concerned about the pace of the scheme.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It took the last government 14 months to set in train the whole plan for HS2 from London to Birmingham and we started the work on the route north to Manchester to Leeds.

"This government has been in office for two years and three months and very little of substance has happened since the election.

"They've carried out one consultation but we still don't have the legislation to get the line up to Birmingham, they're delaying consultation on the compensation scheme and they still haven't published the routes north of Birmingham.

"The current transport secretary announced that she wasn't even going to publish that route until the autumn.

"So it'll be nearly four years after the last election until they produce the bill needed for HS2 and I think there's now a very good chance that legislation won't pass in this parliament. It could well get caught up in all the politics leading up to the next election and we may not see HS2 now in the 2020s."

He added: "There's been endless dither and delay, no one is gripping this, no one is driving it forward. There should have been a bill for HS2 in the Queen's Speech when instead we're apparently going to be spending month after month debating House of Lords reform.
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