Engineers back high-speed rail plan

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Support for a controversial new high speed rail route was voiced by civil engineers today, saying it would boost the economy and bring about a "step change" in rail capacity.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) said the HS2 route from London to Birmingham was more visionary than alternatives, and would encourage long-term economic growth.

HS2, set to cost £32 billion, is expected to be built by around 2026 and has divided opinion, with a report this week from the Institute of Economic Affairs saying it was "economically flawed".

But ICE backed the plans, arguing they would free up capacity on the UK's "congested" rail network and would be good value for money.

Spokesman Steven Hayter said: "The opportunity should be taken to invest in growth by providing a new railway that is fit for the 21st century - significantly increasing capacity, strengthening connectivity between Britain's city regions and linking up with the trans-European rail network.

"The time to invest is now and we endorse the Government's strategy. In addition to better connectivity between regions, the benefit of improved connectivity to the capital should also not be understated.

"Faster, more reliable connections to London could propel a region's economic competitiveness and act as a catalyst for regeneration as city developers, planners and businesses alike take advantage of the opportunities, especially in the Midlands, the North and Scotland.

"We believe the benefits are not limited to those cities served by HS2. Many will benefit from released capacity and significantly improved services on the existing lines, such as communities that are currently not well served by the West Coast main line.

"Those not directly served by HS2 will also benefit from reduced journey times providing their nearest HS2 station is easily accessible by road or public transport."