HIGH speed rail was described as essential to growing the economy in the North yesterday after a think tank claimed the cost could rise to almost double the Government’s current estimate.
The Institute of Economic Affairs published figures suggesting the cost of the project could reach £80bn and argued the same sum could deliver £320bn of value if spent on road and other rail and transport projects.
But supporters of the plan to build a line, known as high speed two (HS2), linking Yorkshire to London insisted that the existing network would struggle to meet future demand even with additional investment.
Mark Goldstone, head of policy at the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “HS2 will provide much-needed additional capacity when it eventually arrives in Leeds, freeing up space on the East Coast main line for freight and regional commuter journeys. This is not simply a discussion about faster journey times.
“The chamber would also expect to see continued investment into the existing network. This is essential if we are to maintain the vital sub two-hour connection between our region and London.
“However, even with this investment and improvements the East Coast main line is forecast to be at capacity by the mid 2020s. If we want to see economic growth across the whole country and not see it simply concentrated in London and the South East, then we must have a functioning, modern rail network across the whole country, connecting people with jobs and companies with customers.”
Yorkshire transport authorities Metro and SYPTE recently set out proposals to amend the plans for HS2 to bring additional benefits to the region including more services with faster journey times.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “HS2 will provide the capacity needed in a way that will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds worth of economic benefits.”