'They haven't seen the wood for the trees': Sir Bill Cash hits out at pro-HS2 Tories

Sir Bill Cash has accused Tory lobbyists for HS2 of ignoring the economic arguments against the project, saying: "They haven't seen the wood for the trees."

Sir Bill Cash says pro-HS2 lobbyists have ignored the economic arguments against the project
Sir Bill Cash says pro-HS2 lobbyists have ignored the economic arguments against the project

The Stone MP said that by supporting the controversial line, the likes of West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Chancellor Sajid Javid had tied themselves to an "unjustified white elephant", while disregarding the strong case for improving local train services in areas such as the West Midlands.

He also warned that the final cost of HS2 would soar past the current estimate of £106bn – a figure which is already triple its original budget.

It came as the official Oakervee review into the line strongly advised against cancelling it, urging the Government to build it "in full". A final decision is due imminently.

Sir Bill said he had met with Boris Johnson to stress his opposition to HS2.

He told the Express & Star that he disagreed with the findings of the Oakervee report, claiming it featured "no coherent argument" for the project and had "ignored the economic facts".

In an attack on pro-HS2 lobbyists in his own party, including Mr Street, he said: "They have locked themselves into a strategy that quite simply flies in the face of the economic arguments. They haven't seen the wood for the trees.

"Apart from anything else, there are big problems with ground conditions. HS2 has got to go in a straight line, and the ground conditions from the reports I'm getting are extremely bad in the West Midlands area and further up the line.

"For practical purposes that is something which is a critical factor. They have also disregarded the need for the improvement in services on rail and bus all over the West Midlands, which is overwhelming.

"The lobbying by those with a vested interest and those who have committed themselves to something which was started off by Labour under Andrew Adonis and carried on by Blair, and continued by Cameron and May... they have tied themselves to something that has been proved to be an unjustified white elephant.

"In my opinion there is no acceptable argument for it."

Over the past 12 months the budget for HS2 shot up from £55bn to £88bn. It is now estimated to hit £106bn.

However, Sir Bill said the Oakervee review had failed to take into account the increased cost of rolling stock and "assumed we are working at 2015 prices".

"We're in 2020 and the figure they are banding around is clearly an underestimate," he said.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has also urged ministers to rethink HS2.

He said he would be "very disappointed" if the line went ahead in its current form, which he said was "both expensive and mightily disconnected" and "needlessly" damaged the environment.

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