Opposition grows as PM presses ahead with HS2 scheme
Rage in Tory heartlands is likely to be elicited by publication of next stage of route
A fierce backlash across the Conservative heartlands is expected today when David Cameron promises to steam ahead with construction of a high-speed rail link connecting London to Birmingham and the north.
Opposition to the scheme, which is already setting parts of the Conservative Party against the Government, is likely to increase when the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, publishes the proposed routes that will link Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. The whole project will be roughly shaped like a Y, with Birmingham as the point where the three lines meet. The London to Birmingham stem has already been published, provoking local opposition along almost its entire length.
The Prime Minister is convinced that the £32.7bn project will provide a vital stimulus for construction firms.
The Department for Transport reckons that constructing and maintaining the line and new station hubs will create 100,000 jobs, as well as cutting the travel time between cities, and reducing congestion on the railway.
When the project is complete, the train journey from London to Manchester will be cut to one hour eight minutes, half its present duration, and the Leeds to London journey will be cut to one hour 22 minutes. From Birmingham, the journey time to Manchester will be cut to 41 minutes, and to Leeds it will be 57 minutes.
Mr Cameron is expected to chair a cabinet meeting in the north this morning, after which ministers will fan out along the route to spread the message. "Linking communities and businesses across the country and shrinking the distances between our greatest cities," Mr Cameron said. "High speed rail is an engine for growth that will help invigorate our regional economies. It is vital that we get on board the high-speed revolution.
"We are in a global race and this Government's decision to make high-speed rail a reality is another example of the action we are taking to equip Britain to compete in that race. High-speed rail is a catalyst that will help to secure economic prosperity across Britain, rebalance our economy and support tens of thousands of jobs."
But opponents question whether the project will actually bring benefits that will justify its immense cost. They suggest the calculations about its effects are likely to be as flawed as the thinking that caused the West Coast main-line franchise to be awarded in August to First Direct.
After a legal challenge by Virgin, the current operators, the Department for Transport had to admit that it had miscalculated. The mistake could cost taxpayers £100m.
The Government is already facing a bitter backlash over the planned route from London to Birmingham. The former cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan, whose Amersham and Chesham seat is on the route, has described it as "the wrong railway in the wrong place at the wrong time and for such a high cost". The Speaker, John Bercow, whose Buckingham seat is similarly affected, has called it a "wretched, unnecessary project".
The Chancellor George Osborne may now have to cope with some local opposition because his Tatton constituency lies along the obvious route between Birmingham and Manchester.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The Government is deluding itself if it thinks spending vast sums of taxpayers' money on this white elephant is a substitute for a genuine plan for growth.
"The HS2 business case just isn't credible and ministers aren't being honest about the hidden costs or flawed projections that the project is based on. This is a rich man's train line which every family in Britain is paying a fortune for," he added.
"The Government must look to strategic alternatives that could deliver greater capacity more quickly and without the enormous bill."
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Bali Nine executions live: Indonesian firing squad shoots dead eight drug offenders despite outcry around world, but a ninth is spared
Keith Harris dead: Orville the Duck ventriloquist dies aged 67 following battle with cancer
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...
£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...