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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Scrapping HS2 could see 28 improvement schemes completed instead – including Midland Mainline electrification

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The billions of pounds due to be spent on High Speed 2 could be better spent elsewhere to help improve Britain’s transport network, a new publication has found.

Among the 28 major infrastructure schemes which could be funded instead is the electrification of the Midland Main Line which goes from Nottingham to London, and the re-opening of the Whitacre Link, which would improve train journeys between Nottingham and Birmingham.

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The controversial train line has a current bill of £50 billion, although this is widely expected to increase.

Supporters of the scheme say it would bring huge economic benefits and would help ‘re-balance’ the UK economy in the Midlands and the north.

Crucially, they also argue it would free up capacity on the existing lines.

The plan is for the new high-speed line to go from London to Birmingham, before splitting.

The western leg of a Y shape will then go towards Manchester, while the eastern leg will stop at Toton, in Notts, before heading to Sheffield and Leeds.

The Department for Transport says the report, published by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, offers a false choice between investment in transport and investment in HS2, and that the reality is not either/or, but both.

The report found: “The case for scrapping High Speed 2 (HS2) gets stronger by the day.

“Increasingly, people from across the political spectrum are waking up to the fundamental issues which have plagued this project.

“Whether it be the spiralling costs, environmental damage, consistent mismanagement or overwhelming unpopularity of the project, the tide is turning against HS2.”

“With the latest evidence suggesting that costs could almost double, taxpayers are demanding more for their money. Even on current estimates, scrapping HS2 would free up at least £50 billion to improve transport links up and down the country.”

The Taxpayers’ Alliance ran the Great British Transport Competition, asking the public which infrastructure schemes they would like to see money spent on rather than HS2.

In total, 28 winning entries were selected, at a total cost of £45.1 billion.

These include a diverse range of schemes, including west to east high-speed rail link from Liverpool and Manchester to Sheffield and York; a scheme to build cycle paths next to motorways and A roads; and a lower Thames crossing.

A spokesman for HS2 said: “HS2 is expected to generate around £92 billion in benefits to the UK economy as a whole.

“It will transform rail journeys and give passengers thousands of extra seats every day. The capacity that HS2 provides makes future infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail Hub possible.

“Local economic plans show almost 500,000 jobs and nearly 90,000 new homes resulting from the improved connectivity these services will provide across the country.”

“The HS2 programme continues to enjoy cross-party support, with the phase one bill receiving a majority of 357 votes from MPs in favour.

“In January this year, a joint letter from 40 leaders in the North and Midlands to all party leaders reinforced their commitment to work with us to deliver HS2.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “The report presents a false and inferior choice of investing in either HS2 or other transport across the country – we are delivering both.

“That means, among other things, investing a record £48bn into modernising our railways, spending nearly £29 billion to reduce congestion on our roads up to 2025, and delivering around £2 billion into cycling over the course of this parliament.

“HS2 will deliver £92bn in benefits, providing the increased capacity and improved connections our national rail network desperately needs.

“On top of this, the full benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail can only be realised off the back of HS2 – we are clear the North needs both, not either/or.”

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