Jonathan Edwards - Herald Column

No Love Lost on HS2

Can I start by wishing all readers of the Herald a happy Valentine’s day, however there was no love lost between this Welsh MP and the British Government this week with the confirmation that HS2 would be given the go ahead.

Since I have been an MP, the cost of HS2 has trebled before even a single mile is built. Current estimates put the bill at over £300m a mile with a total cost of over £100bn. The total bill will be paid via public funds, the private sector having made their own calculations and unlike HS1 (Eurostar) which was funded via private finance, investors have worked out the new railway is a complete red herring. This is important because it means that Welsh taxpayers will be expected to bankroll the project.

As I challenged the Prime Minister this week - the last time I looked on a map, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London were all in England. England only projects should result in Barnett consequentials for Wales. However, in this case whilst Scotland and Northern Ireland receive a 100% Barnett consequentials from HS2, Wales gets 0%. The sums for Wales are eyewatering, full Barnet consequentials for Wales would result in £5bn for the Welsh Government to invest in our own transport infrastructure.

Historically Wales gets an terrible deal when it comes to rail infrastructure investment. We have over 10% of the rail on the network, and 5% of the population but only get 1% of the investment. The Silk Commission at the start of the decade recognised this awful record of neglect and recommended that responsibility for transport infrastructure be fully devolved only for Labour and Tory politicians, for shabby unionist ideological reasons, remove this key recommendation in the subsequent Wales Bill.

With our full share we could electrify our north and south mainlines; build an exciting metro for the south west; and link our country north to south by rail. Instead it is highly unlikely any of these projects will see the light of day as HS2 sucks up all available resource for decades.

To add insult to injury the British Government's own economic assessments indicate that the economy of the south of our country will be adversely hit by hundreds of millions of pounds each year as businesses relocate to be nearer HS2. A double insult for Wales.

For this reason, I have voted against HS2 in every parliamentary vote for ten years, whilst Labour and Tory politicians based in Wales troop through the opposite lobby. HS2 proves beyond doubt that Westminster doesn’t work for Wales and unionist ideological dogma is the biggest barrier to the prosperity of our country.

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