HS2 is a nightmare. It’s time Britain woken up

Mark Thurston’s resignation from HS2 Ltd represents more than a simple staffing change. It’s a symbol of failure. We who opposed HS2 under the previous Labour Government, from the moment it was just a twinkle of an eye in Lord Adonis’s eye, foresaw that the construction of the project would result in a massive loss of money to the taxpayers and cause serious environmental damage.

The project is still wrong. The project is a classic example of the “government by shiny things” era. The cost estimates vary widely, but an analysis by Lord Berkeley suggests that it could be well over £165bn if the future phases north from Birmingham are ever implemented. We must not forget that the current version of HS2 is completely useless. No Euston. No Birmingham New Street. From a glorified shelter in West London, to an unconvenient place in Birmingham. It will take more time to get from one city centre to another than the “high-speed” travel saves. They will wonder why they didn’t use the West Coast Main Line, or Chiltern Line.

We can get all the information we need by looking at how no private investor has put up a penny on this project. In the House of Commons, I argued that all infrastructure projects such as this one should be subjected a viability test by the private sector. If the market won’t touch it, it isn’t worth it.

Recalling the departure of Mr Thurston. According to reports, he cited rising costs and political stress as reasons for leaving. I have always tried to focus on the project, not the person – he would never win in most cases. You can only count on one hand how many state projects are completed on time.

The merry-go-round at all levels within HS2 Ltd. and their contractors paints a sad picture of a total mess of a project. It is difficult to convey how frustrating it can be to raise issues, to be told that we would hear back and then to receive non-answers just before staffing changes, which means we have to start over.

The distance between theory, and reality, was clearly evident when the Transport Select Committee came to my constituency and saw the destruction for themselves. I asked Mr Thurston, how long had it been since he spoke with representatives of Buckinghamshire communities that were directly affected by the construction, and he admitted openly that it had been quite some time.

The case against HS2 doesn’t only revolve around money. It’s about the people. Livelihoods. Quality of life. It is a miserable experience to live with a large construction project. It’s terrible.

Housing developments can be a real pain, but the good news is that they are usually completed in just a few years and solve a problem. My constituents will have HS2 for many decades. Endless road closures that add miles to your school run or visit to the GP. The closure of footpaths, bridleways and other rural routes takes away one of the main reasons why people choose to live in the country.

The state of our roads is causing thousands of pounds in extra costs for businesses like the school bus driver. Tens of thousands construction vehicles have turned them into the Moon’s surface. As multiple roads leading into and out of Steeple Claydon were closed last year, the Prince of Wales Pub in Steeple Claydon came close to bankruptcy. There was no compensation, not even a hint. No sympathy.

My constituents have been let down by the project and its layers of bureaucracy. Fail to address and, in many cases, acknowledge these real problems which impact real people. None of them asked for the destruction that it has caused on their daily lives. My arguments would be called “Nimby” by HS2 supporters. They would understand that opposition to HS2 was rational if they lived with it. Why would I prioritize people over something that brings little or no benefit?

HS2’s culture and attitude were all shaped under the watch of Mr Thurston. He should be gone. A report by Lord Berkeley from earlier this year showed that we could reduce the loss to £8 billion, rather than simply replacing him with someone worse. This is still a large sum of money, but we cannot fall victim to the “sunk costs” fallacy. We must admit our mistake and take the consequences, not waste another £150, or perhaps £200 billion, in years to come.