TORY MPs have launched a fresh rebellion against HS2, threatening to vote against the flagship project and urging ministers to “get a grip” of the company running it.
Seven Conservatives highlighted a host of issues with phase two of the £55.7 billion rail scheme between Manchester and Leeds during a Westminster Hall debate, including fears of major ground subsidence along the route.
Transport minister Paul Maynard said HS2 had received expert advice and it expected the project to get its consultation with affected communities right, with this the source of much of the MPs’ frustration.
“In principle I’ve been supportive of HS2, but the more things go on the more you start to wonder is it worth all the stress and the uncertainty that we’re finding for our constituents,” said Tory backbencher Maggie Throup (Erewash).
“I request the minister to get a grip of HS2 Ltd and to do the right thing by my constituents and by constituents of other people in this room.”
Senior Tory Sir Bill Cash added: “I too am very much opposed to HS2 in principle and I will be voting against it.”
Antoinette Sandbach led the debate on the route of phase 2b for HS2, which was confirmed by ministers just before Parliament’s summer recess.
“One of the key aspects around the business case for HS2 involved the consideration of the economic benefits that it could potentially bring, and I question whether or not the economic blight that is associated with it has been appropriately considered,” said Ms Sandbach.
“It appears very often that effectively a line has been drawn on a map, and it’s only afterwards that the problems caused by that line have been adequately identified.”
She highlighted a series of “significant” environmental and noise issues posed by the project, most notably the land around her Eddisbury constituency in Cheshire.
The Conservative backbencher said there was local concern around taking the route through an area of wet rockhead, which she described as “unstable ground liable to subsidence as a result of salt”.
Former Tory minister Esther McVey, who represents the neighbouring constituency of Tatton, added that “craters under the ground” were being created in the area.
“Ros Todhunter, a geologist who lives in my constituency at Lostock Green, also talks about the movement of the land,” added Ms McVey.
“What is permitted by the rail engineers talking about five millimetres, we could be looking at movement of half a metre.”
Both Ms Sandbach and Ms McVey said the Government had not done enough work to assess the underground issues in the area, claims which Mr Maynard rejected.
“I am more than aware of these issues, but can I reassure members that we are seeking to monitor them actively,” he said.
The minister added that a specialist mining engineer was now studying the route using geological data.
Mr Maynard also faced calls for Tory MPs to consider more tunnels to reduce the environmental impact, as well as criticism of HS2 Ltd’s treatment of residents.
“It is impossible to build infrastructure of this scale without inconveniencing someone,” said Mr Maynard.
“The key test is whether those people who are being inconvenienced, asked to sell or leave their homes, feel themselves that they’re being treated in a fair and proportionate manner.”
He said he wanted to hear from MPs about individual cases, adding: “I expect HS2 to get this right.”