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Next prime minister must commit to HS2, says former transport secretary

Former transport secretary, Sir Patrick McLoughlin.

Former transport secretary Sir Patrick McLoughlin has urged all the current Conservative party leadership candidates to give clear backing to HS2 if they seriously want to become Prime Minister.

McLoughlin made the remarks while visiting key rail suppliers in Derby, as part of UK trade body the Railway Industry Association’s (RIA) Rail Fellowship Programme, where he visited the rail manufacturer Bombardier and received a tour of the production lines on site.

His comments come against a background of some leadership candidates prevaricating on HS2 and others threatening to review or scrap the scheme, at a time when there are strident calls from the industry and business for clear commitments to be made to HS2. 

“Our rail industry is of vital importance to the UK economy and as demand grows, the government must ensure its ambition continues to grow with it," McLoughlin said. "HS2 is a prime example of rail being put at the heart of our economic strategy. As transport secretary I was proud to back HS2 and every candidate running to be the next prime minister should back it as well. This is a crucial project which is delivering jobs, connectivity, and enhanced capacity for the rail network. Frankly I think it would be mad to consider scrapping it," he said.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: “Sir Patrick McLoughlin, as a recent former transport secretary, is well placed to judge the importance of HS2 to the UK, its economy and connectivity. The Railway Industry Association supports his call for the future prime minister to back the scheme. Furthermore, we urge politicians of all parties in all constituencies to get behind HS2, given it will unlock significant capacity on the country’s rail network, deliver £92bn in economic growth, secure 30,000 jobs, and boost investment in communities in every part of the UK.”

McLoughlin currently sits on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee and speaks out regularly on transport and infrastructure issues.

For the opposition, Labour are on record as backing HS2 as they see the project as a key part of rebalancing the economy between north and south. However, speaking to the Institute for government in March, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said although his party wanted to see HS2 go ahead along with much-needed investment in rail in the north, "there will be no blank cheque from Labour".