The next transport secretary will need a thick skin

 

The constituency in which I live in the outer suburbs of west London is a deep blue, so blue that even if a monkey were the Conservative candidate it would still win by a landslide (mind you it worked in Hartlepool with an elected mayor).

But nothing can be left for chance in this election. Even though the Tory candidate, old Etonian Nick Hurd, son of former foreign secretary Douglas, has been MP for the constituency Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner since 2010 with a 19,000 majority and was the minister for civil society until last year, he has a problem.

It’s now known across the country as HS2, but when he was last elected it was still a twinkle in an engineer’s eye.

HS2 as planned runs through his constituency and most of the residents don’t want it. Even an MP with a rock solid majority like his would be ill-advised to go against the grain of his voters.

Mr Hurd says the current plans are ‘quite unacceptable’ to him and since 2012 he has been campaigning to extend the tunnel which currently stops in his constituency further out to the other side of the Colne Valley.

The local council, Hillingdon, has commissioned a report, which says it is perfectly possible to extend the tunnel. The Government has also dropped its plan to link HS2 to Heathrow Airport through the so-called Heathrow Spur making a tunnel even more feasible.

The reason for mentioning HS2 is because it has barely featured in the election campaign which considering its multi-billion pound cost is extraordinary. You can be sure that after May HS2 will be back on the front pages again.

It will remain controversial because of the amount of money involved and the feeling that the money could be better spent on more local projects. While most MPs will be unaffected by the issue the cross-party consensus is likely to hold, although the issue of money could still derail this behemoth or at least mothball some of it.

There will be an almighty battle between those constituencies in a handful of Midland and Northern cities that stand to benefit from having HS2 running through them and those like Mr Hurd’s, mainly in the south, which do not. The rationale for HS2 is far from convincing and the cost is enormous.

And it won’t just be HS2, which will be back in the headlines. The Davies Commission into airport expansion is also due to report this summer. I hope that whoever gets the transport secretary’s brief in the next government has a thick skin because he or she will need it.

 
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