Boris Johnson has said “in a hole the size of HS2, the only thing to do is keep digging” – in the clearest signal yet that the controversial rail scheme will go ahead.
In an interview with 10-year-old Braydon Bent, from Sky News’ children’s current affairs programme, FYI, the prime minister also hit out at those behind the high-speed train project, which has been beset by spiralling costs, accusing them of being “profligate” and branding its management “hopeless”.
It has been estimated the scheme, which was allocated £56bn in 2015, could now cost up to £106bn.
Some £8bn has already been spent on the mammoth infrastructure project.
Earlier this month, Whitehall’s spending watchdog said HS2 was over budget and behind schedule because its complexity and risks were under-estimated.
The National Audit Office (NAO) warned it is impossible to “estimate with certainty what the final cost could be”.
Mr Johnson has so far refused to be drawn on the future of HS2, only telling MPs that a decision on the project would be made “very shortly”.
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But sitting in Number 10, the PM told Braydon, from Manchester, he has to make the best of a bad job.
“It’s a colossal railway line. Now the truth is, the people who did it spent far too much money, they were profligate with the way they did it.
“They just wasted money. And the whole way it was managed was hopeless.
“It’s @BraydonBent , from Number 10 Downing Street, reporting for @FYI_SkyTV ”… Coming soon to @SkyNews and @SkyKidsOfficial pic.twitter.com/8tsinardzs
— Mirador Management (@MiradorMgmt) January 30, 2020
“So we’re in a hole, we’re in a mess. But we’ve got to get out of it. And we need a way forward, so we’re thinking about how to sort it out now.”
“Is it a deep hole or is it a small one?,” his young interviewer asked, to which Mr Johnson replied: “In a hole the size of HS2, the only thing to do is keep digging.
“That’s what you’ve got to do. It’s a big hole.”
The first stage of the scheme between London and Birmingham was due to open in 2026, but full services are now forecast to start between 2031 and 2036.
Business chiefs in the North of England have argued that pushing forward with HS2 is key to boosting transport links across the region and providing increased capacity on the overcrowded rail network.
Construction firms have warned scrapping it would cause major damage to the industry.
But critics insist HS2 is too expensive and the money would be better spent elsewhere on the creaking rail network, while environmental groups argue it will cause huge damage to natural habitats and ancient woodland.
Earlier this month, one group of demonstrators tried to block the railway’s construction by attaching themselves to trees along the planned route.
SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/pm-in-a-hole-the-size-of-hs2-only-thing-to-do-is-keep-digging-11922797