HS2 review shunted into sidings, Berkeley claims

 

The deputy chair of the Government's HS2 review has claimed he has been sidelined and that the unfinished report is likely to be locked away until after next month's general election.

The review is being led by Douglas Oakervee, a former chair of HS2 Ltd, supported by a panel of experts. However, longstanding HS2 sceptic Lord Berkeley was his deputy.

It was announced in August by transport secretary Grant Shapps, with a pledge that it would be sent to him ‘in the Autumn’.

However, Lord Berkeley tweeted at the weekend: ‘My role as dep chair of the Oakervee Report on HS2 finished yesterday. Report not finished and no opportunity to influence conclusions.’

He added: ‘We are told that, when completed by Doug O and the DfT secretariat, it will be locked into the DfT vaults for the new [secretary of state] to publish.’

The BBC’s transport correspondent reported that ‘sources involved with, or close to, the review have told me Lord Berkeley was, in private, very unhappy about the way the process was being handled’.

The ‘independently-led government review’ was tasked with looking into whether and how HS2 should proceed, as well as taking stock of its benefits and impacts: affordability and efficiency: deliverability and scope of its phasing and its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Shortly after announcing the review, Mr Shapps told MPs that HS2 will be delayed by several years and is over budget by at least £25bn.

There has been speculation that the scheme could be scaled back rather than scrapped altogether.

Despite the review, HS2 Ltd has continued to sign contracts to take the scheme forward, including one worth at least £1bn with the joint venture developing the new station at Old Oak Common.

However, the Government has announced a temporary halt to the removal of ancient woodlands for the scheme.

The Department for Transport did not give a date for publication of the review's findings but pointed out that the terms of the review set out that no member of the panel would have a right of veto.

A spokesperson said: 'We thank Lord Berkeley for his work. The Oakervee review will conclude in the autumn and it would be inappropriate to pre-empt its recommendations.'

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