Rail investment fears amid HS2 plan


Plans for the HS2 rail project must not lead to less investment in the rest of the network, a transport campaign group said

The Government’s plans for the HS2 high-speed rail project must not lead to less investment in the rest of the network, a transport campaign group has said.

Budgets could be cut on other rail schemes while the Government concentrates on HS2, the first stage of which will run from London to Birmingham, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said.

Its comments came ahead of next week’s launch of a Government consultation on HS2 which could cost around £33 billion if the section north of Birmingham goes ahead.

CBT director Richard Hebditch said: “High speed rail (HSR) could offer an opportunity to improve transport in the UK and provide greener choices for long-distance travel.

“But the danger is that the Government is so focused on just getting plans through in the face of local opposition that it ignores the need for it to be part of improving the whole network.”

He went on: “We’re very worried that ministers will need to cut budgets elsewhere to pay for HSR. That could mean even steeper fare rises and cuts in local rail services in order to pay for it.

“And the best way for rail to offer a greener alternative is to electrify much more of the network but plans for electrification could be put back as HSR eats up all the funding.”

Also, 69 top businessmen, including CBI director-general John Cridland, gave their backing for HS2 in a letter to the Financial Times, saying HSR would boost the British economy, create new jobs and improve growth prospects.

The letter read: “We believe the Government is right to develop a new high-speed rail line linking the major cities in the Midlands, the north of England and London. An HSR link will give the economy a much-needed boost, particularly in the north and Midlands.

“Not only will an HSR link create much-needed capacity and reduce journey times, it will also improve connections between airports, help current commuter services, and free up space on existing lines to carry more freight. All this will provide significant help for British business and attract additional new investment.”

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