ROTHER Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron has performed a dramatic U-turn on HS2, saying he no longer supports plans for a high-speed link between London and Leeds.
Sir Kevin has joined protesters in opposing the contoversial “M18 route” through Aston, Bramley and the Dearne Valley but championed the benefits of the scheme in principal, favouring the original “M1 route” through Meadowhall.
But the outspoken MP said on Tuesday that he had now lost faith that HS2 would deliver the benefits promised.
He told a House of Commons debate on the issue: “I supported HS2 for many years. I truly believed that it would help to bridge the divide between the north and London in the south.
“I even defended the astonishing cost to my constituents, as I thought that it would benefit people in my constituency.
“However, I now believe that the case has become flaky at best, owing to a number of factors.”
Chris Matthewman, chair of the Bramley HS2 Action Group, said: “I think Kevin has finally realised that the HS2 project is just not worth the cost any longer.
"Also, the lies and false information which have come out from HS2, along with the disgraceful way that HS2 treat communities, has severely dampened his view of the whole project.”
Grant Morement, of Hooton Roberts & Firsby HS2 Action Group, said: “It’s good to see Kevin lead the way in parliament.
“Hopefully the other MP's around the region (and around the country) will join him shortly as more of HS2's lie's, conflicts of interest and incompetence come into public focus.
“The proposed M18 route will damage Yorkshire and negatively effect its residents for years to come and it need to be stopped now.”
Sir Kevin said he was concerned by a Public Accounts Committee report which concluded there was a “serious risk of fraud, corruption and error” with HS2, that HS2 Ltd still had a “lack of organisational maturity”.
Sandra Haith of Bramley’s anti-HS2 campaign group, said: “Anyone not taking an interest in the actual details of HS2 may think a north/south link is what the country needs.
“It’s only when you interact with HS2 Ltd and the DfT that you realise the flaws and the misleading information fed to the public.
“It’s a pity more MPs didn't turn up to hear the arguments yesterday.
“There was some brilliant information that I’m sure would have made those MPs whose constituencies aren't affected think twice.
“In particular, I thought it quite rude and arrogant of the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, not to stay and listen.
“It appears the only people he listens to is HS2 Ltd, and they’re all on the gravy train!
Sir Kevin highlighted the spiralling projected budget, which has risen from £32.7 billion in 2010 to up to £63 billion.
“I believe we can do so much more with this money, in particular on the electrification of services that this Government scrapped,” he said.
“Most business leaders believe that if the north is to thrive the links between northern cities need to be improved, not just by having another route to London.”
Another Public Accounts Committee report concluded that HS2 made £1.6 million of unauthorised payments to staff during 2016-17, which Sir Kevin called “a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money”.
He concluded: “I no longer believe that HS2 is likely to fulfil the aims it was designed to achieve.
“I will therefore vote for the amendment declining to give the Bill a Second Reading.
“I no longer have confidence in HS2 Ltd or the Government’s ability to oversee it.”
Sir Kevin said he had seen the damage HS2 could do to towns and villages in Rother Valley.
Tuesday’s debate related to proposed the West Midlands-Crewe link, which meant Sir Kevin could not highlight the impact of HS2 in South Yorkshire, but he said: “When I get the chance, I will detail the awful process that has taken place.”
Transport minister Nusrat Ghani said HS2 presented “a huge opportunity for the country as a whole”, describing it as “a major undertaking but an essential one”.
She added: “HS2 will connect people to jobs, and businesses to suppliers. It will bring new investment, employment and regeneration to towns and cities up and down the country.
“Infrastructure is at the heart of our industrial strategy and that for the north — for a modern country with a modern transport infrastructure to match.
“HS2 will play a vital role in this.”