Express & Star comment: HS2 is not a priority Mr Street
There are many areas where West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is getting things right for the people of our part of the country. But HS2 is not one of them.
Mr Street is convinced this project will bring enormous benefits to the West Midlands and the rest of the country.
The trouble is that those benefits come attached to an even more enormous price tag. The latest estimates – and that is all any of these figures can be at the moment – are that it could eventually cost £80 billion.
Figures of £100bn have been rubbished by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, but we are still years away from the first train rolling out of a station and the bill has already reached £4 billion.
So, at a time when so many other issues are clamouring for attentions, it is unfortunate that Mr Street feels it is the best use of his time, while the Conservative Party is in Birmingham for its annual conference, to try and extract a cast-iron commitment from the Government that it will go ahead with the high speed rail project.
His concern is that there is a groundswell of opposition to the scheme, particularly from Tory MPs who face the prospect of HS2 scything through their constituencies.
“I cannot believe it is possible that they will pull the plug, but there is discontent, and I want to show them that they are wrong. We have got to hold the commitment of all those Conservative MPs who voted for it in the House of Commons,” says Mr Street.
While there may be support for the scheme in London and Whitehall, and in cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds that see it as a platform for inner city regeneration, that feeling is not reflected in those areas that will see no benefit, but will suffer the depredations of its construction.
People living along the route in Staffordshire, for instance, are concerned about the huge swathes of countryside that will be sacrificed to what many feel will be a huge white elephant.
At the same time there are concerns that the vast expenditure needed to bring HS2 into existence will suck money away from other rail services, leaving those of us not living along the new line having to make do with a second class railway.
There are other issues to focus on right now, Mr Street.