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Lord Berkeley calls for six month delay to HS2

In light of the current coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the nation and the world, Lord Berkeley has published a letter to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps calling for HS2 to be paused for six months.

At the beginning of February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light to the multibillion-pound HS2 project.

During the announcement he said: "We face a historic choice, we can try to get by with existing routes from north to south or we can have the guts to take a decision, no matter how difficult and controversial."

A HS2 minister was appointed, whose full-time job is to manage the project. The role was awarded to Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson who gave his first speech at the end of February. 

Mr. Stephenson said: “I am personally committed to ensuring the North and Midlands are fully engaged and consulted throughout the Integrated Rail Plan process. To be able to give something back to the place where I grew up is a huge honour. Something that will shape the growth of the North, not just for decades, but for generations to come.

“It’s time to repay the trust of northern voters. To show communities here that they’ve not been left behind. And use the railway to deliver a new Northern Powerhouse.”

Berkeley’s letter, published yesterday (Mar 24) began by saying: “I write on a day when you are rightly putting on further controls on people’s movement in order to reduce the infection of the coronavirus.

“HS2 project and design work seems to be continuing around Euston in spite of your decision to have the Network Rail and HS2 rail works integrated and a cheaper and less risky design sought. In spite of this, temporary works to demolish and clear building and properties which clearly will no longer be required to any sensible new design continue.

He continued: “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issues, these are some of no doubt many more cases where HS2, in spite of its denial, personnel of the company and its contractors are clearly being put at risk of infection by failure to observe the social distancing rule. 

He advised the government to follow in Scotland’s footsteps where Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that all building sites in Scotland have closed.

“I urge you to do the same, and include HS2 preliminary works contracts in this decision. As a former construction engineer, I am well aware that construction is a sector where worker health and safety is a daily concern. Unlike other industries, not following the rules can be a matter of life and death.

“So, I do urge you to close all HS2 construction sites including any temporary works sites for at least 6 months.  Similarly, the project offices of HS2 and its contractors and suppliers are not critical works and I urge you to close them as well for at least 6 months.”

He finalised his letter by saying: “I am also sure that ministers will want to look at the finances for HS2 and/or its cheaper alternatives in the light of the Government’s unexpected expenditure on supporting business and people as a result of the coronavirus, before deciding whether to allocate over £100bn to HS2.”

“Ministers may also wish to consider whether, as a result of people getting used to work from home or remotely, demand for transport in the future will be reduced to the extent that HS2 in its entirety is no longer needed.”


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