Network Rail has challenged claims by the Director General of the CBI, John Cridland, that the £43 billion budgeted for the hugely controversial High Speed Two (HS2) programme would be better spent on the West Coast Mainline.
The CBI had previously been supportive of a rail link that will cut London to Birmingham journey times to 49 minutes and support more than 100,000 jobs.
But last week, Mr Cridland told MPs on the powerful treasury select committee that the recent £10 billion hike in HS2 costs meant boosting capacity on the West Coast Mainline would provide greater value.
However, Network Rail, the Government-backed body that owns and maintains the railways, has hit back, saying: “Unprecedented growth in the last 10 years has seen passenger journeys grow by 50% to almost 1.5 billion a year and that number is set to continue to grow.
“Without HS2, the West Coast Mainline — our busiest and most economically important line — will be full in a little over a decade.”
HS2 has been coming under increasing fire since its budget shot up by nearly one-third in the wake of the comprehensive spending review.
Last week, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the cost of the high speed line will be more than £70 billion, nearly twice as much as the official estimate. But the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Danny Alexander, insists the project will be “good for the economy and therefore good value for the taxpayer”,
Work on HS2, which will run between London and Birmingham by 2026, is due to begin in 2017.