Britain ‘cannot afford to walk away from HS2’

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Only a tiny fraction of the £42.6bn budget for HS2 will be made available for the railways should the high-speed project be scrapped, according to a report by a pro-rail group.

The most likely estimate is that the Department for Transport will get only £2bn should HS2 be derailed, with as little as £670m of this going on rail, said the report from the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders’ Group (HSRILG).

The first, London to Birmingham, phase of HS2 will see a high-speed line cutting through Tory heartlands in the Chilterns and is due for completion in 2026. A second Y-shaped section, taking the line to Leeds and Manchester, is planned for completion around 2033. Including £7.5bn for the trains, the project will cost £50bn.

Jim Steer, director of pro high-speed rail group Greengauge 21 and founding member of HSRILG, said: “HS2 is a project that will build a bright future for Britain.

“With the Bill for the first stage of the route now before Parliament, we felt it important to set out the hugely positive difference this project will make.

“To bring to life its contribution, we considered this question: what would be the most likely outcome should it be cancelled?

“Thinking this through it became clear to all of us that walking away from HS2 is a risk 
that Britain just cannot afford to take.”

Anti-HS2 group, HS2 Action Alliance, said regional cities would be “milked of talent and business” if HS2 went ahead – adding that the project “would do nothing to alleviate overcrowding on local commuter trains”.

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