HS2 railway art plan stops MPs in their tracks

HS2 Ltd is “in cloud cuckoo land” says one MP in response to plans to recruit a curator to place public art along the route of the new railway.

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, says the new ‘arts curator’ post is just another example of HS2’s “cavalier” attitude to public funds. “At a time of austerity for everyone else, money appears to be no object for HS2 and it is completely unacceptable that the costs are already spiralling out of control”, Davies added.

The advert for the arts curator calls for candidates with a “proven track record of curating a variety of arts and/or cultural projects, preferably within the public realm” and experience of commissioning public art. The post holder will earn up to £35,340 a year  for the task of managing an “innovative and high quality programme of new commissions both temporary and permanent for key sites” along the railway route.

HS2 has attracted growing criticism over its management of public funds. In spring 2018, the Treasury cautioned Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, over HS2 wages. Recent reports indicate one in four staff receive six-figure pay packages. The official budget for the railway is £56 billion but the actual costs are predicted to reach over £80 billion, a 60% overspend.

A spokesman for HS2 sought to defend the new arts curator post as a means of leaving a “positive legacy” along the railway route and engaging with local communities, which would ensure the arts projects benefit local areas.

Davies warned that HS2 needed to stop wasting taxpayer money on “vanity projects” and “get a grip on spending”.

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