High speed railway plans split nation

TRANSPORT secretary Justine Greening could make a decision as soon as tomorrow regarding HS2, the proposed high speed railway linking London with the north which has been dividing the UK.

The £32bn project would see a 100-mile connection created by 2026 between London and Birmingham, cutting the journey time down to 49 minutes, with extensions to Leeds and Manchester added by 2033 in a bid to facilitate business across the country and increase capacity along the route.

However, more than 30 MPs and 18 local authorities have spoken out against the railway due to environmental concerns and claims that it would disrupt communities along the planned route and provide an unsubstantiated burden to taxpayers.

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said in favour of the proposal: “Business leaders up and down the country want ministers to make a rock-solid commitment to build a national high-speed rail network.

“HS2 fundamentally is about a radical increase in rail capacity, and without it overcrowding will get worse, costs will rise, and delays will become even more common.”

He added, “Britain cannot continue to 'make do and mend' when it comes to infrastructure, because our global competitiveness is at stake.”

The UK ranked 33rd for “quality of overall infrastructure” in 2011 according to the World Economic Forum.

However, Next chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson told the transport committee in July that HS2 is not good value for money when 90 per cent of passenger miles in the UK are by road.

Matthew Sinclair, director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said yesterday: “The project would cost every British family £1000 and only benefit a small minority. There has to be a question whether this is fair while the business case is quite weak.”

Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan is reportedly prepared to resign from the cabinet if the proposed railway, which would bisect her constituency, is given the green light.