Government defends its HS2 high speed rail project

LONDON Mon Sep 9, 2013 8:07am BST

A placard in the shape of a white elephant, planted by an activist from the Midlands, stands on top of a hedge in a field near to the planned location of new HS2 high speed rail link as it passes by the village of Hoo Green, northern England January 28, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble

A placard in the shape of a white elephant, planted by an activist from the Midlands, stands on top of a hedge in a field near to the planned location of new HS2 high speed rail link as it passes by the village of Hoo Green, northern England January 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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LONDON (Reuters) - The transport secretary said the UK's planned HS2 high-speed rail network was "essential" to the country after a group of MPs criticised the project.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday said the Department for Transport (DfT) had failed to present a "convincing strategic case" for the project, which will run from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, costing around 43 billion pounds.

"This is planning for the future of our railways, it is essential we have good connections between our main cities," transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told BBC radio on Monday.

The PAC said there was no evidence that HS2 would help economies around Britain and criticised the government for allowing the project's "costs to spiral".

The government increased the project's estimated cost by 10 billion pounds to 43 billion pounds earlier this year. The Institute for Economic Affairs think-tank said the cost of the scheme could rise to as much as 80 billion pounds.

McLoughlin rejected the PAC's findings and said without HS2 Britain's major rail routes would be overwhelmed by rising passenger numbers.

The first phase of the scheme between London and Birmingham is due to open in 2026 with the extension to Leeds and Manchester scheduled to start from 2033.

Critics of the scheme say it will lead to a loss of homes, cause severe environmental damage and disruption to many communities.

The government is due to publish a report this week claiming that HS2 will generate billions of pounds for the British economy.

(Reporting by Rhys Jones; editing by Sarah Young)

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Comments (3)
Tazzer wrote:
How about improving the links between the north and south? As usual the Westminster government thinks the country finishes at Birmingham.

Sep 09, 2013 12:15pm BST  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
It is the existing infrastructure that people are most worried about, and any new vanity project is likely to transfer effort away from the network that people use already, resulting in a poor service for decades to come.

As per usual, the HS2 services will be premium priced service, and the majority will be left we an ever worsening existing rail and road network.

Sep 09, 2013 12:19pm BST  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
On the one hand you have todays govt criticising the opposition for wanting to borrow more billions to stimulate the economy, and then in the same breath they are then talking about borrowing approx 50 bn pounds for an extra train track, and 30 bn pounds (+) for a partly independent nuclear deterrence.

This from a country that has a revenue income of 600 billion pounds, and an expenditure outgoings of 720 bn pounds…

I dont see any sign of a balanced budget yet!

Sep 09, 2013 1:06pm BST  --  Report as abuse
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