Esther McVey, who opposes High Speed Two has urged the Boris Johnson to re-think the “wasteful project” and instead plough billions into improving digital connectivity across the country.
The Tatton MP said costs were spiralling out of control and yet Government were still pushing ahead with the controversial project, regardless of cost.
Speaking in Prime Minister’s Questions, she said: “When High Speed Two was first proposed the estimated cost was £37.5 billion but the latest estimated cost was over £150 billion and rising fast. Is there a price the Prime Minister would accept that High Speed Two is no longer value for money, or is he determined to build it irrespective of whatever the final cost will be?
“Wouldn’t it be better to put this white elephant project out of tis misery, get risk of High Speed Two and instead deliver high speed broadband, reliable 1gb capability at a fraction of the cost to every household which would be much more useful for everyone in all our communities.”
Ms McVey said cutting journey times to London was not essential and previous claims the line was needed to meet growing capacity were no longer true. Journeys have reduced by more than 50 per cent and people can now work from home or hold Zoom meetings to save time and money, she said.
Ms McVey said politicians needed to accept the world had changed since the pandemic and the project was outdated.
She added: “HS2 was dreamt up in 2004 and will not be delivered until 2040 it will be out of date before it is completed. Things have changed and the way people can work has moved on and so Government policy and priorities need to reflect those changes.
“Scrap HS2 and invest in digital technology to help generations to come. This pandemic has shown how important connectivity is in all areas of our lives. HS2 is a huge waste of money.”
Mr Johnson said gigabit broadband is important and since the start of his Premiership it had increased from nine per cent of the country to 60 per cent coverage and within years it will be 100 per cent.
But he added: “I cannot agree with her however on HS2, this House did vote for it, it has potential to do a massive amount of help levelling up across the whole of the UK.”
Ms McVey said accessible, fast, and reliable broadband would do more to level up as all families would have access to the service, which she believes should be classed as a basic utility such as water and a power supply.