The benefits of HS2 ‘significantly outweigh’ the risks of not going ahead with the project, a group of MPs have said.
The Transport Select Committee said it is ‘essential’ for the UK that the controversial rail line, which would cut through Aylesbury Vale, go ahead.
In a report published today (Friday), MPs also claimed the £50 billion budget for HS2 was an exaggeration, saying the extra costs were due to the decision to mitigate the impact of the proposed route on people living near it.
Opponents described the report as ‘cheerleading whitewash’, claiming it ‘urges the Department for Transport to spin harder to promote the project’.
In their report, MPs called for the construction of HS2 to be sped up so trains are running north of Birmingham well before 2032/33, as currently proposed.
They also said the project would help re-balance the nation’s economy.
The committee said: “Alternatives to building a new line will themselves be costly and disruptive and their benefits could be relatively short-lived if demand continues to grow as forecast.
“Only a new line can bring the step change in capacity which is required.
“Bringing high speed rail to the northern cities has the potential to transform the nation’s economic geography.”
The cost of the whole project is estimated at £42.6bn, with £7.5bn needed for trains.
The committee said: “DfT’s communications about HS2 should emphasise that the estimated cost is £28 billion, not £50 billion, and that cost increases to date have largely been due to the decision to undertake more tunnelling and other work to mitigate the impact of the project on people living near the route.”
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “It was clear that this inquiry was going to be a cheerleading whitewash when the Transport Committee only called people who support HS2 to give evidence.
“Despite the official cost of HS2 standing at £50bn, the committee want to pretend it is £28bn, even though they said it would be £34bn in 2011.
“In saying this and telling the DfT they should abandon standard their assessments to improve the case for HS2, they are effectively ordering the Government to ‘spin harder’ on HS2.
“The level of complete denial in this report shows it is all about spin and trying to con the public, against the reality that the case for HS2 is falling apart.”
The HS2 hybrid bill, the planning application for the project, was presented to the House of Commons last month.
The date of the first vote on it is yet to be announced.