SOLIHULL’S Labour leader has urged the Government to “get a grip” on the spiralling costs of high-speed rail.
Councillor David Jamieson was speaking after his party’s conference last month, in which Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls (pictured) said there would be no “blank cheque” for the multi-billion pound project.
Coun Jamieson, who did a stint as a transport minister during his time as an MP, said that he still supported the HS2 scheme, but the issue of cost was a concern.
“I think what Ed Balls was saying is that this is a good idea, but not a good idea at any price,” he told the Solihull News.
“This was of course a Labour idea to begin with, we started HS2 off in 2010. But there are two things that concern me.
“The first is that the costs continue to spiral upwards, there seem to be an extra couple of noughts on the end everytime it is talked about.
“And also I’m concerned that the people in charge of HS2 are not doing enough to present a robust economic case. I’ve sat in meetings and some of what the representatives have said seems pitifully thin.”
Ed Balls’ comments were the first time that a senior Labour figure has suggested the party’s support for the £50billion scheme is not unconditional.
Following the speech, Birmingham Airport’s public affairs director John Morris warned: “Whatever doesn’t get spent on HS2 will not end up being spent on other schemes in the West Midlands.”
While opponents of the scheme were buoyed, believing the Shadow Chancellor’s comments could pave the way for Labour withdrawing support ahead of the next election.
Joe Rukin, from the action group Stop HS2, said: “No-one is buying the idea that HS2 will come in on time or on budget.”
The Tories, whose own conference took place this week, have repeated their commitment to the scheme, but continue to face opposition from activists and backbench MPs.