Critical report on HS2 could be delayed until after an election, Labour claims
Fears have been raised that a crucial review of HS2 will be held back until after an election amid accusations the Government plans to “cut off the economic opportunities of the North”.
The Oakervee Review was rumoured to be released before the end of the month, with national reports suggesting the line from the East Midlands to Leeds could be scrapped to save £10bn.
But York Central Labour MP and Shadow Transport Minister Rachael Maskell said: “Not only has the Williams Review not yet seen the light of day but the Oakervee Review is ready. His team have pulled out all the stops to get this to the minister next week.
“So why is the Secretary of State saying he will not publish it until after the General Election? Is it because he intends to cut off the economic opportunities of the North or is he worried it will upset voters in the South?”
Responding, Transport Minister Paul Maynard said: "Neither the Secretary of State nor I have received Mr Oakervee's report. She clearly knows more than I do, or maybe she's making it up?"
The minister also said the independent panel will have no time limit set on it to publish its report.
Tory backbencher Michael Fabricant said he did not think the panel has enough time to consider alternative routes for the railway.
The Lichfield MP said: "It's not just the cost of HS2, it's the route. It doesn't even connect with Birmingham New Street, Heathrow or its very original intention of connecting with the Channel Tunnel."
He added: "Doug Oakervee himself has told me that the amount of time they've to consider all this is very limited. Very challenging indeed. Not enough time to consider alternative routes. So would he consider giving them more time to do just that?"
Mr Maynard said: "We are not putting any time limit of Mr Oakervee's findings, he will report when he is ready to do so."
Earlier, Chesham and Amersham Tory MP Dame Cheryl Gillan said the New Civil Engineer magazine had reported that the advisory panel to the Oakervee Review has been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.
She added: "How can it be right that a publicly-funded project is again trying to conceal information about its viability, by gagging the very people who have in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of this dreadful project?"
Mr Maynard replied: "Mr Oakervee is trying to make sure that he works consensually with the panel to make sure that they reach a single report.
"The management of the panel and the individuals on it who cover a wide range of views, is a matter for Mr Oakervee."