Labour MP says failure to complete East West Rail ‘will damage Cambridge’
Labour’s Daniel Zeichner MP has accused the Conservatives of “reducing the future prosperity of the region to a pawn in the Tory leadership battle” following Grant Shapps’ revelation that he would scrap East West Rail.
Earlier this week, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the East West Rail project would be the first to face the axe when asked what he would cut from the transport budget during an interview with LBC.
The interview was undertaken as the first in a series covering the contenders to replace Boris Johnson before Mr Shapps exited the race.
He said: “I would cut East West Rail on what’s called two and three - the second and third tranches of it - that would save three to five million pounds straight away.”
Mr Zeichner has repeatedly challenged the transport secretary on his intentions, most recently on June 30 in a debate on the modernisation of the railway.
Today, the Cambridge MP said: “For the secretary of state to announce on a radio programme that he would scrap a key infrastructure project is a new low, even for this Government and this secretary of state. Restoring the rail link to Oxford has been a key priority for businesses and councils across the regions for many years, and failure to complete will damage Cambridge.
“I have been arguing for years that the line should be electrified and have a clear purpose - the Conservatives need to explain just how much of our money they have already wasted if they now scrap the project.”
Neil O’Brien MP, parliamentary under-secretary for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution, said in a letter to council leaders in May that the planned “direct rail link between Oxford and Cambridge will play an important role in boosting connectivity and unlocking productivity within the Arc, supporting access to jobs, education, and other opportunities”.
In April, minister of state for transport Wendy Morton MP, responded to a letter sent to the secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, via South Cambridgeshire’s Conservative MP Anthony Browne, calling for the EWR business case to be published if the project is to continue.
She said: “Reviews are common for a complex project of this size, particularly before making critical decisions... and it is important to ensure that the investment continues to offer value for money for taxpayers.
“It is therefore right that EWR Co. keeps the viability of the business case for the railway under constant review.”
She said the project plays an “important role in boosting connectivity and unlocking productivity within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc” and the “government and EWR Co will set out next steps for the project in due course”.
South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne said: “This letter can be summed up in four words: small consolations, greater concerns.”