Cameron runs into a new critic of high-speed rail: his father-in-law


Tim Hume
Thursday 12 January 2012 01:00

David Cameron is facing opposition to the Government's contentious high-speed rail plans from within his own family, with his father-in-law attacking the scheme in print.

Viscount Astor, a Conservative peer and stepfather of the Prime Minister's wife, Samantha, has lent his voice to opposition to the High Speed 2 network, accusing it of potentially "ruining the lives of thousands".

In an article for The Spectator, he said the planned HS 2 line from London to Birmingham was supported mostly by "northern Labour MPs who relish the thought of the beauty of the Chilterns being destroyed". He said the need for the £32.7bn scheme, given the green light this week by Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, could be bypassed by modern communications.

"There is a perfectly viable alternative, which... would be much cheaper and faster to take effect, without destroying a whole swath of countryside," he wrote. "Have they not heard of Skype and the internet?"

Lord Astor, a hereditary peer, suggested his son-in law was betraying the "core values" of a Conservative government by pursuing the scheme.

"I admit I am biased. I am biased in favour of the countryside. But I am also biased in favour of choice. Choice about how we protect our diminishing countryside. Choice about how we want to travel. But above all, choice about how we invest in our infrastructure to help Britain. And choice is a core value of this Conservative government."

He brushed aside the argument that Britain lagged behind high-speed rail links in countries like Saudi Arabia and Morocco. "Those countries do not have such well-developed separate rail or motorway networks," he writes. "Nor do they have our high population density. As TE Lawrence found, there is a lot of empty space in Saudi Arabia."

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