CAMPAIGNERS HAVE accused the Government of creating “phantom figures for a zombie project” as they hit back at claims that high-speed rail will boost Yorkshire’s economy with thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of investment.
Senior figures from High Speed 2 (HS2) have today released a report that claims the controversial service will play a big part in York’s regeneration plans. The study says a new High Speed Hub will form part of a planned Enterprise Zone, which aims to create 7,000 jobs and help finance about £80m of infrastructure investment.
If we wish to be a first-rate country thriving outside the EU we cannot afford to have second-rate infrastructure.Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2
The report, made in collaboration with York Council, also claims a high-speed rail network would help drive up wages and increase productivity in the city’s business areas.
But opponents of the £56bn project have said these figures mean nothing.
Stop HS2 campaign manager, Joe Rukin, said: “The Government have magicked up phantom figures for a zombie project that will suck the life-blood out of the railways. Yet again, they have blown taxpayers’ money conjuring numbers which have no basis in reality in another desperate attempt to bewitch the public into believing this colossal white elephant is a good idea. HS2 isn’t about jobs, it isn’t about regional growth, and it isn’t even about transport. It is about lining the pockets of the contractors who have been lobbying for this project since the outset.”
The new high-speed rail network, set to be completed in 2033, would cut journey times from York to Birmingham and London by 51 and 26 minutes, respectively.
HS2 claims this will boost York’s £600m tourist industry while also benefiting the economies of surrounding towns by providing improved links to the rest of the country.
The company’s executive chairman, Sir David Higgins, maintained the High Speed Hub will help improve career prospects through “attracting and nurturing high value businesses”.
He added: “York is a city that knows a thing or two about rail and is determined to capitalise on the benefits HS2 will bring. Currently Britain’s railway system is well behind those of our counterparts across Europe and the rest of the world.
“It is absolutely crucial. If we wish to be a first-rate country thriving outside the EU we cannot afford to have second-rate infrastructure.”
York Council leader David Carr was adamant HS2 would improve “the connectivity and resilience of the city’s rail network”.
He added: “This will help us achieve our full economic ambitions as a city. We will become the key point on the East Coast Mainline.”But the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust warned the economic benefits should not outweigh the importance of preserving the region’s landscape. A spokesman said: “With any development we believe there should be a net gain for wildlife. As it stands, HS2 could be devastating to the wonderful wildlife and landscapes that make Yorkshire great.”