Tory grandee Heseltine backs High Speed 2

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LORD Heseltine threw his weight behind the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project yesterday, urging politicians to back a “really imaginative project” that will “rebalance the country”.

The former deputy prime minister said we should be using “the same sort of money to help the rest of the country” as London is spending on Crossrail and ignore the “guys with slide rules” who claim the project will far exceed its £42.6bn budget.

The rail route between London, Birmingham and the north of England could help put a “sense of can-do back into those great towns of the Midlands and the north that made this country in the first place”, he told BBC Radio 4.

Using private investors to pay for parts of the schemes, such as rolling stock or track concessions, will keep costs in check, Heseltine said.

He added that the 1980s regeneration of east London, which took place when he was in government, would have failed the cost-benefit analysis now being used to debate the merits of HS2.

The government last month cut the expected benefit of the rail scheme, due to open in 2033, from £2.50 per £1 invested to £2.30, to reflect a rise in its budget.

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