It was confirmed yesterday that a report anti-HS2 campaigners have been trying to get released for two years has been blocked firmly by the government. This is after the Information Commissioner’s Office last year backed a Freedom of Information request to release the information. Patrick McLoughlin has now invoked a rare piece of parliamentary procedure to block it, essentially sticking two fingers up at everybody who has genuine concerns about the spiralling costs of the proposed rail route.
This excellent piece from the Local Government Executive covers the block in more detailing, also explaining that the project was labelled as ‘amber-red’ in 2011 when the expected cost was only £33 billion. Since that has risen to over £50 billion the article points out that it must be now at even greater risk of failure.
The plain fact is, there must be something pretty damning in this report that the pro-HS2 government don’t want us to know. Perhaps it points out that costs are set to spiral further or that the cost-benefit analysis results are weak or that other countries are ditching their high speed projects and we should do the same. Who knows? Patrick McLoughlin doesn’t want us to know and don’t expect any opposition from Labour, whose Shadow Transport Secretary’s presses ahead with her support even after her own area council has voted against the proposals.
Is this going to be the most expensive white elephant ever? Successive governments will palm it off as ‘a mistake made by the previous administration’ but if there is one moment that might define the calamity of HS2, it may well be refusal to release a report that would bring this madness to an end.