Influential Commons committee throws its weight behind HS2

AN influential committee of MPs has given a ringing endorsement to the Government’s HS2 rail scheme and demanded serious consideration be given to starting its construction in the North.

The potential HS2 train design

A report published this morning by the Commons transport committee concluded that it is “essential for the UK” that the controversial project continues, despite recent criticism from its opponents.

The cross-party committee said the risks of not going ahead with the scheme “significantly outweigh the risks of doing so”, and that serious thought should be given to building the second-phase section of the line – including the spur to Sheffield and Leeds – at the same time as the first phase London-to-Birmingham stretch.

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The report comes as a timely boost to the coalition, which has remained firmly committed to the project despite recent criticism from groups including the Commons public accounts committee, which analyses Government spending.

The transport committee said it remains “convinced that the project is justified”, although the MPs stressed other vital transport projects must not be delayed due to HS2’s funding requirements.

Their report concluded: “In our view, the risks of not going ahead with HS2 significantly outweigh the risks of doing so. Without HS2, the West Coast main line will become increasingly overloaded.

“Commuters will suffer from overcrowding, and there will be fewer passenger services on the line than the market could sustain. Perhaps more significantly, the chance to reshape the national economy and boost growth in the North and the Midlands will have been lost.”

Launching the report, committee chairwoman Louise Ellman said: “We remain confident that construction of a new high speed line is the only way to deliver the step change in capacity... needed to accommodate long-term demand for both passengers and rail freight.”