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Don’t let Ministerial meddling derail HS2

The biggest threat to building the High Speed 2 rail project will be ministerial meddling and departmental dithering, the head of London’s leading business body will say today (Friday 13 September).

Speaking at the Institute of Civil Engineers, Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, will call on the government to press ahead with the rail link rather than repeat the indecision on airports by successive governments over the past 50 years.

She will say:

“The economic case for building HS2 is clear. It will provide capacity on our railways and tie the great cities of Britain closer together, benefiting the whole of the UK, not just London and the South. Having committed to the project, the government must now stick with it. We have seen with our airports the damage that repeatedly starting then cancelling major infrastructure projects can cause. A similar stop-start approach on HS2 would send a terrible message to foreign investors who may be interested in British infrastructure.

“But clearly the cost of delivery is critical to its success. It must be built at a price that represents value for taxpayers’ money.  To my mind, the biggest risk is mission creep – adding a bit here, changing a little there – or delays caused by poor project management within the Department for Transport, as we saw with the West Coast rail franchise process.

“We have to avoid HS2 being derailed by ministerial meddling or departmental dithering. Several companies have already put their reputations on the line by declaring that they can deliver HS2 on time and on budget. Let’s ensure that the project is run at arm’s length by experienced private sector managers rather than politicians and Department for Transport officials.

“Major projects such as the Olympics and Crossrail have slain the myth that Britain cannot build infrastructure. We can, and we will, and we should all support this flagship project.”

ENDS

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