A growth taskforce led by Lord Deighton has said towns and cities across the UK need to be "HS2 ready." The taskforce has made the claim that the controversial project is a once in a generation chance change the face of the country.
Commercial secretary and HS2 Growth taskforce chair Lord Deighton said on Wednesday:
HS2 is set to be the biggest construction project in Europe and it’s vital we harness the huge potential that it offers the UK. It’s not just a transport project and it’s not just for one central government department to deliver in isolation.
In our report next year, the Taskforce will challenge Whitehall and local government leaders to step up and play their part in this transformative scheme. Growth and regeneration won’t just be handed to us on a plate - we need to think big, we need to plan ahead and most importantly we need to work together if we are to really make the most of this once in a generation opportunity.
There will be many who remain highly sceptical of the latest claims made for the benefits of HS2. The project has come under intense criticism from the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry. In September the TaxPayers' Alliance argued the business case for the project had suffered a "dramatic deterioration" as the government budget for the project ballooned from £33bn to more than £42bn.
There may also be billions of pounds in hidden costs including a new rail link to the terminal at Euston. The Labour party, previously enthusiastic for the scheme has threatened to withdraw its support should costs rise and the business case erode further.
Ed Balls, speaking at the Labour party conference in September, said:
Labour will not take this irresponsible approach. So let me be clear, in tough times – when there is less money around and a big deficit to get down – there will be no blank cheque from me as a Labour Chancellor for this project or for any project.
The project has continued to decline in popularity with 55 per cent opposing the project according to a YouGov poll in September.