Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Brexit: and scrapping HS2

Politicians love 'infrastructure' projects:
Futures Forum: Finance, ideology and infrastructure
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Trump and infrastructure projects
Futures Forum: "You can't take the politics out of infrastructure planning"
Futures Forum: The Infrastructure Bill: "Infrastructure isn’t just about pouring concrete... It’s essential that we see infrastructure as a means to an end, not as an end in itself."

However, the South-West tends to get forgotten:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the railways in the South West
Futures Forum: The budget and "it’s the Cinderella South West yet again”
Futures Forum: The SouthWest continues to get a bad deal for its railways
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the future of infrastructure projects in the South-West

One particular infrastructure project is taking up a lot of political capital:
Futures Forum: The HS2 rail project should be scrapped as it is a 'waste of money'

Even before the Brexit referendum, there was talk of how this could affect the HS2 project: 

Rail 800: HS2 at risk from Brexit

11 Comments May 5, 2016 Rail Magazine

The government’s top civil servant has been quietly looking at the costs of HS2 but there is actually a more tangible threat to the future of the project. While it is pretty certain that the first stage of HS2 will get through the House of Lords after sailing through its Commons vote, there is still a possible scenario where the now £55bn project could get into trouble. 

While on the face of it the referendum over EU membership has nothing to do with HS2, the outcome could definitely affect the project’s future.

Rail 800: HS2 at risk from Brexit | Christian Wolmar

Certainly in the context of meeting the UK's climate targets, the likes of the Friends of the Earth are saying it should be scrapped anyway:
Time is running out | Prospect Magazine

Now the political dimension has become even more of a thing: 

HS2 could be crucial issue in next Tory leadership battle

By Pete Madeley | Politics | Published: Jul 3, 2018

Theresa May has vowed to fight off cabinet plotters as it emerged that HS2 could prove to be a crucial issue is the next Tory leadership battle.

Michael Gove could scrap HS2

The Prime Minister is determined to defy any efforts to oust her, and is reported to have told aides that she will not be bullied out of office by ministers or hardline Brexiteers opposed to her EU plans.

And the controversial HS2 rail line could be pivotal in any leadership bid, with Michael Gove said to be prepared to ditch the multi-billion pound scheme should he become party leader.

HS2 could be crucial issue in next Tory leadership battle | Express & Star

Conservative Home gives a little more: 


Amid all the whispering and jostling for position ahead of the expected leadership election – whenever it might come – it’s fascinating to see which particular topics are apparently being raised, and by which candidates. Brexit, of course, is the backdrop to just about everything at the moment, but one detail caught my eye in the weekend’s newspapers.
The eminently well-informed Tim Shipman recounted a visitation bestowed by Michael Gove upon a group of MPs recently. As they dined,
‘The environment secretary sat down and began asking them leading questions about the future of the party. “He was blatantly fishing,” one said. “He asked, ‘How would you feel if we just dropped HS2 and spent the money on local transport links in the Midlands and the north?’’
It would be very un-Gove-like to choose the topic of such a conversation at random. He evidently has a reason for choosing to float the question of ditching HS2 and spending the money on transport in the Midlands and the North.
The fact that ConservativeHome’s 2014 manifesto proposed precisely this course of action is no doubt compelling, but wouldn’t explain why it has come up as a Gove line of choice now. I understand that he has recently had sight of private polling which suggests that such a policy would be very popular.
The political context certainly recommends it.
Abandoning the project would be one of relatively few possible ways to free up seriously large amounts of money – and, sadly, Conservative MPs have begun to indulge in dreams of the easy popularity to be bought by promising to spend. If one wished to do so without raising taxes, or sought at least to limit tax rises while increasing spending, then reallocating HS2’s budget would be one option.
Then there’s the uncomfortable fact that the rail chaos afflicting large parts of the country still has not ended. As I wrote at the start of June, the problems are damaging to a degree which I suspect many in Westminster simply have not realised, and particular affect commuters, whom you might expect the Conservative Party to want to appeal to. After financial, personal and professional cost, often for weeks on end, plenty of people are already of the view that fixing rail infrastructure in the north and the Midlands is a priority well above a soon-to-be obsolete ‘high speed’ link to London.
We don’t know when there’ll be a leadership race, or who will win it when it comes (though our survey gives some hints today). What is interesting in itself are the issues and policies that those who seek to compete in are sounding out.

Gove floats scrapping HS2 because he believes it to be a policy with a growing appeal | Conservative Home

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