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Lord Heseltine: HS2 can ‘rebalance’ the North-South divide in the UK



Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has said he believes that the UK should “have faith” in the HS2 high speed rail project, as it will bring great benefits to future generations.

The senior Tory will deliver a speech at the Royal Town Planning Institute on Tuesday, giving his support to the controversial line.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme on Radio 4, he said, “Everybody knows that the southeast of England is growing proportionately and faster than anywhere else, everybody is anxious about the effect on the environment, new homes and countryside.

“The rest of the country is not sharing that sort of wellbeing feeling.”

He added that the HS2 project has the potential to “rebalance the United Kingdom” and that the cost of the plan should not take into account the cost of the trains, as this would be covered by the private sector.

Lord Heseltine’s argument was challenged by Henry Overman, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics, who said that the HS2 remains “not particularly good value for money” or that it is even of poor value compared to other transport projects that look at the same issues.

Overman added that the proposals for improvement on existing lines are valid, delivering around £3 benefit for every £1 spent, compared to £2.30 for HS2.

I think we should look more at these alternatives”, he said.

However, Lord Heseltine contested the calculation saying this did not include the consequential and incidental growth.

The HS2 is strongly supported by the government, but some argue that its almost £50 billion construction cost is too high and there would be better ways to spend the money.

Sir David Higgins, the new chairman of HS2, was recently asked by David Cameron to bring the cost of the project down.

Further reading:

MPs set to vote on HS2 spending plans

HS2 rail link attractive to foreign investors

HS2 ‘crucial’ for future transport needs, despite economic case downgrade

HS2 chairman: we have to choose between motorways and high-speed rail

Ditching HS2 would be ‘disaster’ for British industry