Firm set up to deliver project is pressing ahead with 201 property purchases
HS2 bosses are still buying scores of properties along part of the route that was axed more than a month ago.
The private firm set up to deliver the high-speed rail project is pressing ahead with 201 property purchases, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Internal figures show 100 of them are along the Birmingham to Manchester leg, which was scrapped by Rishi Sunak amid concerns about ballooning costs.
A further 101 are along the Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway route, which the Prime Minister announced was being ditched at the Tory party conference at the beginning of October.
Internal estimates suggest the properties are collectively worth between £60 million and £100 million.
HS2 bosses are still buying scores of properties along part of the route that was axed more than a month ago. Pictured: Mockup of a HS2 train
An aerial picture of Whitmore Heath in the West Midlands, where 70 per cent of homes have been purchased for the HS2 project
A general view of the HS2 construction site at Curzon Street in Birmingham city centre
Phases 2a and 2b of the project, which were to connect Birmingham with Crewe, Manchester and Leeds were scrapped earlier this year
Ministers last night defended the purchases, saying that if HS2 pulled out it would be ‘detrimental’ to homeowners who were already planning to move and whose deals were part of a chain.
But critics branded the situation ‘absurd’ and called on ministers to tell HS2 Ltd to halt the purchases.
Tory MP Greg Smith, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘The concept of buying any more properties is absurd on multiple fronts.
‘It’s absurd because any evaluation will be wholly out of line because that land is not blighted any more. And it’s absurd to ask the taxpayers to pay out for property over something that is no longer going to happen.
‘It’s just more evidence of the disjointed failure to deliver a coherent and sensible or considered plan.’
He added: ‘Essentially, the a*** doesn’t know what the elbow is doing and that’s been the way throughout this whole project.’
Lord Tony Berkeley, who served as the deputy chairman of a Government-ordered review into HS2, said: ‘It’s extraordinary. The Prime Minister has already said these sections are going to get cancelled and here they are wasting up to another £100 million. It’s bloody stupid.
‘The sooner things are switched off and contracts cancelled, the better. The Government obviously doesn’t have a grip of this and the Department for Transport apparently doesn’t seem to think HS2 has largely been cancelled.’
Tory MP Greg Smith, who sits on the Commons transport committee, branded the situation ‘absurd’
A weather beaten ‘NO TO HS2’ sign in the Cheshire countryside, on the route of the HS2 Birmingham to Manchester section
Phases 2a and 2b of the project, which were to connect Birmingham with Crewe, Manchester and Leeds, have been scrapped.
The whole HS2 project initially had a price tag of just over £30 billion, including for eastern and western legs to Leeds and Manchester from Birmingham. But it later emerged it would have easily exceeded £100 billion to complete it in full.
An HS2 spokesman said: ‘HS2 Ltd is acting on advice from the Government. We may continue to acquire some properties through our discretionary schemes and statutory blight, where the claimant wishes to proceed and there is a compelling case to do so.
‘This includes cases where applications were submitted prior to the Government announcement [of cancellation] on October 4.
‘We have also identified a limited number of locations and properties where the compulsory purchase process is well advanced and needs to continue until it’s completed.’
A Department for Transport spokesman said that many of the purchases ‘would have begun months earlier and not completing these could in some cases be detrimental to property owners’.
The spokesman added: ‘We will ensure our approach to selling land no longer needed for HS2 provides value for the taxpayer, while acting decisively to bear down on the costs of HS2 more widely. A national programme is being developed to do this and more details will be set out in due course.’
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HS2 bosses are still buying up homes along the project’s northern leg more than a month after it was axed