The controversial HS2 rail project is essential for the future of the UK, and should be backed by all three main political parties, MPs have claimed.
A new report from the cross-party transport committee says the potential gains of the high-speed line “significantly outweigh” any risks, while the possible price tag of £50 billion has been exaggerated.
“The project is now commonly regarded as costing £50 billion and rising. This has led to exaggerated references to HS2 requiring a ‘blank cheque’ from government”, the committee said.
They add that as the costs are spread over 15 years, they will equate to around £2 billion per annum – on a par with current spending on the less-controversial London Crossrail.
The committee concludes that only HS2 can provide the increased capacity that UK’s rail lines need.
“Having reviewed the revised business case for HS2 and the KPMG report on regional economic benefits we remain convinced that the project is justified”, the report reads.
The first phase, connecting London and Birmingham, is due for completion in 2026, while a second section linking Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds should be finished in 2032 or 2033.
However, the committee urge incoming project chairman David Higgins to look into the possibility of bringing the construction of the northern phase forward. This “has the potential to transform the nation’s economic geography”, the report says.
The committee echoes recent claims from former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, who said HS2 could “rebalance the United Kingdom.”
The Institute of Directors has called HS2 “a grand folly”, while shadow chancellor Ed Balls said it had been “mismanaged”.
Joe Rukin, campaign manager of Stop HS2, called this latest report “a cheerleading whitewash.”
He added, “The level of complete denial in this report shows it is all about spin and trying to con the public, against the reality that the case for HS2 is falling apart.”