HS2: Minister defends plan after MPs attack costs

TRANSPORT Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has defended the “vitally important” HS2 high-speed rail project after a parliamentary report found the government failed to make a “convincing strategic case” for the £42 billion initiative.

The HS2 project has come under fire over its proposed cost. Picture: PA

Pressure groups and the House of Commons public accounts committee oppose the project, linking London to areas in the North of England, as costs rise to £10bn more than the original estimate.

The report states there is “insufficient evidence” that HS2 is the most effective and economic way to improve the national rail network and that government projections are based on “fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not ­reflect real life”.

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Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge questioned whether the 250mph service was the best use of money to upgrade Britain’s rail network, warning that the plans risk repeating financial errors like the controversial West Coast main line franchise award that cost taxpayers in excess of £50 million.

Responding to the criticism, Mr McLoughlin said: “I believe it is for the benefit of the long-term future of the United Kingdom. If we are going to be able to compete globally, we need to be able to attract businesses to our cities. To attract businesses to our cities, there need to be good connections. That is vitally important to the future of this country, long-term.”

The Department of Transport has yet to release a timetable for when HS2 will reach Scotland, but services from London to the West Midlands could be running by 2026, with connections to Manchester and Leeds following in 2032.