Huw Merriman has long been vocal supporter of rail project

HS2 champion and former transport committee chair Huw Merriman has been appointed as the new rail and HS2 minister.

The MP for Bexhill and Battle was appointed a minister of state at the Department for Transport in late October but his brief at the department was not revealed until Friday.

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Source: House of Commons

Huw Merriman was a financial lawyer before entering parliament seven years ago

A vocal supporter of HS2 for many years, Merriman’s appointment will likely be celebrated by the rail project, which has in recent months been the subject of constant rumours regarding its future.

A financial lawyer before entering parliament in 2015, Merriman said in 2019 that the job was a “good example of an investment in the longer-term; boosting the economy for years to come” and has criticised previous governments for failing to give it their full backing.

His appointment, which follows that of Mark Harper as transport secretary, will see him take charge of delivering the government’s integrated rail plan, which he criticised during his two years as transport committee chair between 2020 and 2022.

While supportive of the scale of spending proposed last November, he said the finalised plans for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – which saw the eastern leg of the former cut and downgrades for much of the latter – did not meet the promises made to the North and Midlands.

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“The prime minister promised that he would, with Northern Powerhouse Rail, do for the North what he did for Londoners with Crossrail. Instead, much of the track will be an upgrade of existing line,” he said.

“The business case of HS2 was based on it going east to Leeds. Now, it stops in the East Midlands without any understanding of how much money is saved.”

Merriman will now find himself having to defend these policy decisions, after Rishi Sunak made a return to the original IRP plans – scrapping a Truss era promise to build NPR in full – one of his first major policy announcements as prime minister.