BBC Question Time: Labour MP asks why Government had funds for royal yacht but not HS2

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As the debate show was based in Beckenham, Greater London, this week, several people in the audience questioned the panellists on the recent ditching of the HS2 project. The planned high-speed line from Birmingham to Leeds and another between Leeds and Manchester will not go ahead as announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday.

After Conservative MPs expressed concerns about the cost of the eastern leg connecting the West Midlands and Leeds, the Transport Secretary announced two shorter high-speed routes created in part by upgrading existing lines.

Sources told the BBC the impact of scrapping the Leeds leg of HS2 would make journeys longer by 20 minutes.

The route is no longer expected to go via Bradford, a key request of many in the city and surrounding area.

Labour MP Stella Creasy, who was part of the panel, blasted the Tories for being able to afford a royal yacht but not the full HS2 project as promised.

She addressed Employment minister Mims Davies, a member of Government present next to her, saying: “You’ve come in today and said ‘This is great.’

“Be honest with people! Say you’ve got something wrong.

“Say you’ve found the money for a royal yacht but you can’t find the money to make Bradford the economic powerhouse it should be.”

The Labour MP is referencing what’s known as the replacement of Britannia.

The funding of the new royal yacht has attracted criticism from all political parties as the construction could cost between £200m to £250m.

The vessel would also cost at least £5m to run each year but is known as Boris Johnson’s dear project.

The funding for the royal yacht is not comparable to the estimated budget for HS2 which was around £72bn and £98bn, according to the Department for Transport.

Back in June 2021, Tory peer and former chancellor, Ken Clarke, called the yacht project “silly populist nonsense” while a rear admiral described the plans as resembling an “oligarch’s yacht”.

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Shadow justice minister Karl Turner also wondered: “How is it possible to vote against feeding school kids in a pandemic whilst at the same time justify spending upwards of £200m on Johnson’s holiday yacht?”

Among the panel on the debate show, SNP MP Stephen Flynn said the U-turn taken by the Government on the high-speed rail transformation was synonymous with leaving communities behind.

He said: “If HS2’s not going to Leeds, the reality is there’s no chance it’s coming to Scotland.

“I would be surprised if anyone was surprised with this announcement.

“Because what we have seen in the last six months or so from the Prime Minister is a litany of broken promises.”

In his statement on Thursday, the Transport Secretary highlighted that the new project will deliver results much quicker.

Mr Shapps outlined a £96 billion programme to “transform” rail services in the areas, saying it would build a “world-class railway that delivers for passengers and freight”.

Mr Shapps continued: “In the original scheme, the HS2 track would not have reached the East Midlands and the North until the early 2040s.

He added: “Clearly a rethink was needed so the project would deliver for the regions that it served as soon as possible.”

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