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