MPs have suggested that some of the money set aside for HS2 should be used to improve infrastructure in the south-west, where railways have been badly affected by the recent floods.
A section of the south-west line, which connects Cornwall and Devon to the rest of the UK, was destroyed during a storm at the beginning of February. It was originally thought repairs would take six weeks. However, the continuing storms have delayed the work further.
MPs from all three of the main political parties have told the Observer that some of the money for HS2 should be diverted in order to make improvements to the south-west lines. HS2 is a £50 billion project that aims to provide a high-speed rail link between the north and south.
Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, Adrian Sanders, told the newspaper, “Something like 10 miles of HS2 could shore up the Dawlish line properly for the next 50 years and electrify a large part of the Taunton and Exeter line to offer a faster route into London.”
He added that he would not back the HS2 line until “significant investment” had been committed to improving the south-west rail infrastructure.
Conservative Cheryl Gillian, whose Chesham and Amersham constituency is on the HS2 route, also commented, “My priorities would be modernising and making the most of existing transport corridors… The popular and brave thing to do would be to pull HS2 at this stage and look at regional transport solutions.”
Meanwhile, Labour MP for Plymouth, Alison Seabeck, argued that the south-west had been “overlooked” and called for HS2’s funding to be reviewed.
HS2 plans have been controversial, with concerns around the proposed line’s environmental impact and budget being raised. Last month, a legal bid to put the plans under further scrutiny was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Head of the project, Sir David Higgins, recently defended the plans, saying that abandoning the project would lead to the economy underperforming in the north of England. He added that political consensus on the project was vital because its construction will span 20 years.