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JEREMY CORBYN warned today that people relying on the Tory government to deliver the HS2 network will be “sorely disappointed” by delays to the project and ministers incapable of keeping a lid on costs.
The Labour leader’s comments followed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement to the Commons that the government was giving the green light for high-speed rail between London and Crewe as well as expansion of bus services and cycle routes.
The government’s 2015 estimate for the project was just under £56 billion, but the recent independent Oakervee review said it could cost more than £100bn.
Mr Corbyn said there was a “high likelihood” that much of the PM’s plans will not be delivered as he has made 5 per cent cuts to government departments given the job of getting projects on track.
He accused the Tories of “taking ideas from Labour” — the HS2 project was started under a Labour government — adding that it should be a publicly owned service to keep fares affordable.
Mr Corbyn also suggested that HS2 should link up to the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, Scotland and the south-west of England beyond Bristol, to serve Cornwall and Devon and he raised concerns about the links to Manchester and Leeds being under review and possibly downgraded.
Rail union RMT warned that the government will miss HS2 targets if it fails to address the shortages in jobs and skills. The union called on the government to set up a jobs and skills taskforce to set out a plan of action to deliver HS2 and other projects.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is welcome news to finally see the government recognise the benefits that high-speed rail will bring and commit to the HS2 project.
“However, RMT union is concerned that after decades of underinvestment in the very skills, training and workforce planning we need to fully deliver the HS2 project that the government will continue to be asleep at the wheel of this project.”
The Woodland Trust, Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trust, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and the Green Party have all voiced concern over the “bulldozing” of ancient forests and wildlife to make way for HS2.
But Manuel Cortes, general secretary of transport union TSSA, said that “clean and green” travel is vital for “connecting and turbocharging economies across the Midlands and the north,” and Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, argued that HS2 is “part of the solution to climate change.”
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